Review: Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

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Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Written by: Robert Getchell

Starring: Ellen Busrtyn, Kris Kristofferson, Dian Ladd, Jodie Foster, Alfred Lutter

Rating: [3.5/5]

Life as a single parent gives someone the full responsibility of raising a child, with half of the resources. Everything feels different, especially when the transition into single parenthood occurs from unexpected circumstances. Above all, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore shows the importance of having confidence and choosing what’s best for those important to you. 

This film follows Alice Hyatt (Ellen Burstyn) who needs to pick up the pieces of her life after her husband died from an automobile accident. With the new opportunity, she wants to fulfill a dream she wanted to accomplish before getting married but has to deal with financial woes and the influx of different men that enter her life. 

Single parents really do it all, and Alice is tasked with doing that with her son. She needs to find a job that can pay for the basic necessities of living and then maybe time to find some love. Alice desperately wants to rekindle her dream of becoming a singer, but cannot fully invest because of the responsibility she bears to the little human being she must raise. With everything she plans for, she must consider how it will impact the life of her son. That comes to its most climactic points with the different men introduced into her life. Including one man who deceives her and another who becomes abusive. She can no longer have a mindless fling with anyone because eventually, it all comes back to her son and how it may impact him. Definitely a tough lesson that Alice learns and it really shapes her arc as the end of the film approaches. 

Ellen Burstyn can act anyone out of the room and she gives one of her finest performances in this film. Being able to portray a character, who tries to hold it together for her son but also wants to let out the frustration of her current life circumstances. She worked hard to have everything figured out and then an unlucky roll of the dice causes her to financially struggle and fight for everything. Burstyn captures that internal rage that builds, while also trying to keep it together for her son. She gave such a great performance that it landed her the Best Actress Academy Award in 1975. She does some great work here especially when showing the issues that her character, Alice, confronts in her experience. That along with the rest of the waitresses that work with Alice at a diner, including Flo (Diane Ladd) and Vera (Valerie Curtin). They all have different attitudes towards life but each of them has their struggles as women in America. The women of the film drive the story and rightfully receive all of the narrative attention. 

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore marks an early success for Martin Scorsese and it really stands out from the rest of his filmography. Even with the struggles Alice faces, the film results in a pleasant watch because she exudes this optimism when she needs it. Scorsese allows the women to be the focal point of the story and his directorial choices further establish them as the reason to pay attention. In his vast filmography, this film stands out as the only one that centers solely on a female protagonist and he does not fail in allowing the actors from telling this empowering and inspiring story.

It has its flaws, for sure, including some pacing issues throughout but every relationship that Alice has in the film serves the purpose of her development. They each serve as a lesson for her as she traverses trying to date again after many years of being married to one man. She goes from a woman scared for her life and frightened of being able to put food on the table to a confident woman who knows what she wants in a man and for her future. The ending provides a beautiful reflection for her, as she embarks on her new journey.

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