Films: “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” directed by Martin Scorsese (1974)
So satisfying to revisit a movie you liked almost 50 years ago and still find worthwhile
today. Such is the case with “Alice Doesn’t Live Her Anymore,” an early-ish (1974) film in the career of the now-iconic Martin Scorsese.
For those whose memories are foggy: Alice (Ellen Burstyn), a mild-mannered housewife living in small-town New Mexico, has dreams of rekindling her career as a lounge singer but is unfortunately stuck in a loveless marriage to Donald (Billy Green Bush), an abusive soda-truck driver. One day, he’s killed in an automobile accident. Alice quickly packs her bags and together with her wisecracking son Tommy (Alfred Lutter), drives west to Monterey, where she has fond childhood memories.
Along the way, she stops in Phoenix, where she takes a job singing in a cocktail lounge and meets Ben (Harvey Keitel), a psychopath who never met a woman he didn’t eventually wind up smacking around. From there, she moves on to Tucson, where she gets a job as a waitress in a diner (the basis for the TV show “Alice” starring Linda Lavin) and connects with a handsome young cowboy (Kris Kristofferson). Will this romance work out when the others fizzled out?
When I first saw this movie in college, its warmth and hilarious mother-son interplay bowled me over. So did the music—the score featured songs by such 70s wonders as Mott the Hoople, Leon Russell, and Elton John. Altogether, I considered it a working-class, proto-feminist masterpiece. I still do.
Besides the messaging, which seemed radical at the time, the cast has lost none of its luster over time, featuring such actors as Diane Ladd in her breakout role as the potty-mouthed Flo, and a brash, impossibly young Jodie Foster as the ripple-swigging Audrey, Tommy’s GF in Phoenix.
IMHO, Alice is definitely worth a second look for fellow Scorsecians. But don’t wait for an overseas flight to catch it again.