[Sundance 2022] ALICE -- A Fun Third Act That Doesn't Redeem an Inferior Opening
Review by Sean Boelman
Most festivals have at least one dud in the competition, whose merit is more their intentions than what they actually accomplished, and this year, that is Krystin Ver Linden’s Alice. A poorly-paced film that only manages to find its groove in the last twenty minutes, this is one of the biggest wastes of potential in recent memory.
The movie follows a woman who escapes her life in slavery only to discover that she is actually living in the 1970s and slavery has been outlawed for over a century. Although the film is much less of a trainwreck than the similarly-premised Antebellum, this premise is seemingly just doomed to fail.
One of the biggest issues with the movie is that it takes far too long for the protagonist to enter into the modern world. And while the film becomes much more enjoyable after it finally stops taking itself so seriously, with a Blaxploitation-inspired final act that is fun but rushed, viewers will have checked out by then.
The movie definitely wears its message on its sleeve, with a speech in the last scene of the film that basically spells out exactly what the audience is supposed to take away from what they have just seen. And while it’s definitely a good anti-racist message, it definitely could have used a bit more subtlety.
Although Ver Linden does a great job of making the lead character compelling, the arc isn’t particularly well-defined. The character changes, but we don’t really see her grow. She just goes from point A to point B nearly instantly, without much of a path that takes her there, and the result is somewhat off-putting.
That said, Keke Palmer gives a committed performance that really sells the film. The script definitely works against her at times, with some dialogue that is extraordinarily stilted, but she eats up the few great scenes. Common, on the other hand, is just there for some reason and his only job is to react to Palmer.
There is also not a consistent style to the movie, but even that can be chalked up to the issues with the script. The first half of the film is a serious historical drama, and then the second half is a stylish action romp. Some of the individual elements of the execution are promising, but it’s so all-over-the-place that it doesn’t work.
Alice is an absolute mess of a movie with a few good elements but very few that are great. Although the intent of the film is noble, the execution of it is so lackluster that it is entirely frustrating.
Alice screened at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, which ran virtually from January 20-30.
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