Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

Jodie Foster deserves an Oscar for the three lines she delivers in this movie

YES

Release date: December 9, 1974
Director: Martin Scorsese
Language: English

Who should watch this movie: Single mothers. People raised by single mothers. People who consider themselves Scorsese fans but have only seen Raging Bull and Goodfellas.

When should you watch this movie: Over the summer. When your’e not sure if you had a good childhood.

The sell: It’s difficult to pin down exactly what makes this movie so brilliant. It could be Ellen Burstyn’s masterful portrayal of idiosyncratic singer and single mother Alice. It could be Robert Getchell’s punchy yet heartfelt script. It could also be Martin Scorsese’s subtle camerawork, making the audience a fly on the wall in a kitchen sink drama. Of course, in truth, it is the perfect storm of all three that comes together and delivers an emotional sucker punch (and it really leaves a mark). Alice is a deeply flawed protagonist, and is an unapologetic product of her time and circumstances. However, the longer the audience spends with her, the more familiar she becomes and consequently more sympathetic. It’s ultimately impossible not to see one’s own flaws reflected in Alice’s best intentions. Though nothing much happens over the course of the film, every scene holds your attention. The supporting cast are not awarded much screen time, acting as obstacles, either pushing or pulling Alice away from her goal. Yet they are all individually interesting and memorable. Most memorable of course is Alice’s son Tommy. Tommy, despite being obstinate and at times insufferable, wins over the audience with unassuming charm and language he definitely learned from his mother. This central mother-son relationship is the backbone to a story in which all other things are in flux. It grounds the narrative and asks the audience to reflect on one of the most fundamental of human relationships. There is so much more to be said about this film (Jodie Foster!!) but the ineffable genius just has to be experienced in person. I’ll conclude with a closing Fun Fact: Robert Getchell has written two screenplays. One being Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, a work of aforementioned genius. The other is Mommie Dearest, based on Christina Crawford’s troubled childhood, which won him an award for Worst Screenplay.

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