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Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore

A movie directed by Martin Scorsese

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Scorsese doesn't live here anymore.

  • Aug 17, 2012
**** out of ****

lice Hyatt (Ellen Burstyn) loses her husband to a tragic car wreck. It was not a happy marriage, with Burstyn having virtually no one else to turn to but her preteen son Tommy (Alfred Lutter), who the man himself hated the most (they often fought over how loud the music he was listening to was). Alice doesn't stay in town long. She would rather leave the life she once unhappily lived behind. When she married her former husband, Alice had to let go of a life-long dream - to become a singer - and now she finally has the opportunity to pursue it by taking a road trip with Tommy to California. Cornered financially, they have to settle for Phoenix, Arizona for the time being. The lounge where Alice first begins to sing at is located here.

The film is sort of like a road trip odyssey, and sort of more. Alice meets a young man in Phoenix named Ben (Harvey Keitel) although their romantic affair does not last too long, for the man of 27 is married but did not think to tell Alice beforehand. This is just her first conquest though, and once it's ended, Alice does not take it to heart. Next, she finds a job as a waitress at a diner in Tucson. There she meets the divorced rancher and horse-rider David (Kris Kristofferson), who is undeniably more mature and decent than the last man in just about every department. While Ben was young and ignorant, David might actually be able to provide love for Alice and fatherly comfort for Tommy; the kind that's been absent for a while now (in regards to the both of them).

It may seem as if "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" is more about the two romantic relationships that come and go throughout the narrative - which is structurally nothing different than your standard road movie - but the way I see it, it's more about the boy and his mother. They live together, they have fun together, they suffer together; they do more than just share an apartment until they can find a proper house. We get the indication that Alice was never distant from her son and never wants to be; although he can be difficult at times. His insistence on being a potty-mouth brat can get in the way of his relationships with both his mother and David, her new lover. But underneath it all, I think he loves her; but just possesses a certain hyperactive personality.

Martin Scorsese made this movie between two greats: the existential gangster crime drama "Mean Streets" and - my personal favorite of all his films - the uncompromising study of loneliness and urban isolation "Taxi Driver". It's tough being the middle child in this case. This film is often overlooked and even unjustly criticized, but for what? Maybe some people truly do have problems with it, or maybe it's just difficult to accept that Scorsese - as good a filmmaker as he has proved himself to be - could have a winning streak that went at least three in a row (depending on what you thought of "New York, New York" and his documentary "The Last Waltz"). You rarely hear this one mentioned when you hear the director's name, and in that way it is underrated.

But the question is whether it deserves such a fate. I don't think it does. "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anywhere" is, in my opinion, a jubilation of the human heart and the sort of cinematic drama that one can so effortlessly summon if they understand even a small part of it. Perhaps another reason why this one is so seldom spoken of is because it does not resemble the most famous of Scorsese's pictures - no taxi drivers, raging bulls, or young gangsters staring into the sky frequently from their car searching for helicopters here - but stylistically, there's still a lot of Scorsese to be seen in it. There's the fancy camerawork, the luminous lighting, the creative casting, the superb soundtrack, and the distinctive eye for culture. In this case, the characters don't take to the city or to the ring; Scorsese instead tackles the West and shows that he knows it as well as he knows any other place he's taken us thus far.

But perhaps the most important thing of all that the film has that most of Scorsese's films also have is the story concerning a flawed, ambivalent character; or several. As uplifting as the film is at times - largely in part of the flawless chemistry that these stars seem to have with on another - there is always realism around the corner. Alice is impacted by her previous marriage and cannot let it go as easily as she may want to. It puts her in a sort of social and emotional handicap. Meanwhile, the father's death early on in the film seems to have traumatized Tommy in a way too; but he finds solace in a girl his own age played by Jodie Foster, in a very early performance from the actress where she looks almost certainly like a boy. These are such rich, powerful characters that we are given a wide range of emotions to absorb, and it's not easy taking them all in during a single viewing. You watch wonderful yet tragic movies like this and you look at Marty's later filmography and you realize that he, like a lot of people in the business, doesn't live here anymore. But he did one day; and oh, I'm so glad he did.

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More Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymor... reviews
review by . May 21, 2000
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: so, so movie     Cons: ......     This movie became the basis for a long running TV sitcom - "Alice" that starred Linda Lavin in the title role. As in the movie, it follows the life of a suddenly single mom running from life and trying to find her piece of the world.      The movie stars Ellen Burstyn as Alice, Kris Kristofferson as David, Alfred Lutter as Tommy, Diane Ladd as Flo, Harvey Keitel as Ben, Vic Tayback as Mel …
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Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie


After stunning audiences with his ferociously personal, gritty depictions of masculinity in WHO'S THAT KNOCKING AT MY DOOR? (1968) and MEAN STREETS (1973), Martin Scorsese bade farewell to his native New York City in order to direct this delightfully bittersweet portrait of an unflappable single mother. The Oscar-winning Ellen Burstyn is flat-out marvelous as Alice Hyatt, a newly widowed woman who hopes to fulfill a lifelong dream of becoming a singer. Fleeing her small New Mexico town with her 11-year-old son, Tommy (the hilariously spunky Alfred Lutter), Alice promises not to stop until they reach her hometown of Monterey, California. But after a near disaster in Phoenix (compliments of the fiery Harvey Keitel), the pair settles in Tucson, where Alice grudgingly takes a job as a waitress. It's there where she meets the irresistible David (Kris Kristofferson), a warmhearted customer who won't take no for an answer. At the same time, Tommy befriends Audrey (Jodie Foster), a young tomboy with a mischievou...
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Director: Martin Scorsese
Genre: Drama, Romance
Release Date: December 9, 1974
MPAA Rating: PG
DVD Release Date: Warner Home Video (August 17, 2004)
Runtime: 1hr 52min
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
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