Alice (1990)

I can’t really say I was particularly moved by Alice. It is certainly an interesting take on a rich wife who spends her days going through empty routines liberating herself from the chains of a failed marriage and becoming an independent single mother. It’s mostly the tone that is the Achilles heel of the entire movie.  Every time Alice takes Dr Yang’s herbal medicine, it puts the movie into a more fantastical and light hearted gear, and that ends up making the more serious parts of the plot revolving around Alice’s marriage feel very disconnected, because the two tones just don’t naturally mix together. By making the herbs be the thing that continuously empowers Alice, instead of say, just giving her the necessary initial push to get started, I feel it trivializes her journey to independence too much. Honestly speaking, if Allen had just made the movie into a romantic comedy and ditched the affair and finding independence bit, the movie would have been more cohesive and worked better as  story. Now it tries to be a cute fantasy romance that gets dragged down by reality.

Even though I just spent several sentences trashing Dr Yang and his herbs, on their own they do offer good amount of entertainment. When Alice takes the herbs that makes her invisible, it does lead to a few funny scenes, like when she follows Joe around and the herbs wear off right when Joe is having sex with his ex-wife and Alice is sitting right next to them on the couch, or later when  Alice shares the invisibility herbs with Joe and they go out on a stroll together. Another good scene is when Alice goes Dr Yang’s practice at night and the office is revealed to double as an opium den and Alice just nonchalantly doesn’t even bat an eye, instead a second later she’s sitting down, taking a relaxing puff herself. It’s also very amusing how contradictory figure Dr Yang is. He seems very sincere as a doctor and his magical herbs do provide the help Alice needs, but at the same time he is also depicted as being a bit shadowy figure who seems to dabble in dealing opium, and seems a but untrustworthy, which is emphasized near the end of the movie where he is even shown to be packing in a big hurry, as if he was a common criminal about to skip town, and gives Alice this (very unconvincing from the audience’s POV) story about going abroad to study herbs.

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