Reviews - Los Angeles Times
Mystery reflected in 'Alice'
By Kevin Thomas,
"What Alice Found" is too surprising and
provocative to be revealed here, even though the film took a top
prize at the Sundance and Deauville festivals and, therefore, some
readers will surely already know its secret. A. Dean Bell's irresistible
picture represents a career high point for the distinguished Judith
Ivey, a terrific showcase for lovely newcomer Emily Grace and yet
another fine performance from character actor Bill Raymond. "What
Alice Found" proves to be sweet, suspenseful, funny, poignant
— and adult.
Grace's Alice is a small-town New Hampshire 18-year-old
who has decided to flee her miserable existence as the impoverished
daughter of a single mother she is ashamed of. She takes off for
Florida in her old car to join a friend who is about to start college
and major in marine biology. Working with dolphins is about the
greatest thing Alice can imagine; she'll work out how she can afford
higher education once she gets to Miami.
That is, if she ever gets there. After resisting
crude overtures from some passing rednecks, Alice pulls off at a
New Jersey rest stop only to return to her car to find a tire spiked,
her engine conked out and her stash of money missing.
She has caught the attention of an immediately solicitous
middle-aged couple, Sandra (Ivey) and Bill (Raymond), traveling
in an immense RV, who urge her to call the cops. Alice would rather
avoid the delay, and because her car is useless, she accepts the
couple's invitation to hitch a ride. They too are Florida-bound,
but at a more leisurely pace.
It seems that Bill, somewhat older than Sandra,
is a retired serviceman and that the couple live like rolling stones,
traveling anywhere they please — "Anywhere the snow ain't,"
as Sandra puts it. They're a warm, folksy couple, and soon Alice
is responding to their parental affection, which extends to Sandra
buying a few inexpensive but pretty dresses for Alice and teaching
her how to apply makeup.
Gradually, Alice discovers how lovely she really
Everything seems to be too good to be true, and
sure enough, the big question for Alice — and for the audience
— is this: Are Sandra and Bill who they seem? And if they
aren't, who are they? Could they have sabotaged Alice's car, and
if so for what purpose?
Yet as the plot unfolds, with flashbacks filling
in the reasons Alice left home, Sandra nevertheless emerges as a
woman who has seen it all, survived it all and learned to make the
best of it. She is tough, realistic, philosophical and good-humored,
but at her core, when it counts, will she prove to be merely hard
or ultimately vulnerable — or somewhere in between? Ivey's
Sandra is flat-out one of the year's best performances.
Scrupulously fair-minded yet deliciously ambiguous,
"What Alice Found," a triumph of sound psychological and
artistic judgment, is an unexpected treat for sophisticated audiences.
* Exclusively at the Nuart
through Thursday, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles, (310)