In my bio right here on our beloved website, I profess a love for Blaxploitation movies. Sadly, I couldn’t muster any affection for “Alice,” a fully terrible try to make use of the style’s tropes to merge a feminine empowerment story with guidelines of what author/director Krystin Ver Linden thinks are symbols of Blackness. If this movie had been an individual, it could let you know it had a Black pal and voted for Obama twice. That’s how insultingly simplistic it’s about race. Additionally, it is so skittishly afraid to offend that it borders on parody; this can be a movie about the place enslaved African-People are known as “domestics” as a substitute of the phrases you recognize rattling nicely they might have been referred to as by the plantation homeowners.
A type of “domestics” even gives the clichéd “hmmmmmmm-HMMMMMMMM!” Black woman buzzing on the soundtrack. We normally don’t get to see this singer onscreen, however, her function is at all times to underscore Black struggling. This time, she’s buzzing away as she sweeps the porch of the grasp’s home. The lifeless physique of a person who tried to flee is within the background, partially blurred in order to rob the picture of any energy. Paul Bennet (Jonny Lee Miller) instructions that his cook dinner, Alice (Keke Palmer) take a look at the deceased man. That is what occurs if you’re not loyal, he warns. Bennet has taught Alice to learn so she will learn to him each Sunday earlier than he rapes her. Mercifully, we’re spared having to sit down by means of scenes of sexual assault.
We do, nonetheless, get to see Alice crushed, dragged, and hogtied to a pole earlier than put in a hideous facial contraption. Simply earlier than releasing her days later, Bennet pisses in her face. We get to see that, too. Nevertheless, Ver Linden’s digicam will get shy when, in retribution, Alice shoves a damaged piece of glass into her enslaver’s eye earlier than escaping. It’s a premonition that the righteous Black revenge the trailer promised goes to be profoundly dissatisfying. “Alice” shouldn’t be involved with African-American viewers sick and uninterested in slavery scenes and downtrodden narratives. As a substitute, it’s unwilling to upset white viewers who think about themselves as racial allies. A film like this could unapologetically provoke their discomfort. It will have if it had been made within the 12 months it takes place.
When you’ve seen that trailer, you recognize that Alice’s escape culminates together with her operating proper right into a paved highway. The film is 40 minutes previous earlier than she is sort of crushed by a truck pushed by Frank (Widespread). This scene is so ineptly filmed that any shock of Alice instantly discovering a freeway throughout slavery occasions is misplaced. It’s revealed that we’re in 1973, the 12 months of Tamara Dobson’s Cleopatra Jones and Pam Grier’s Coffy. Frank’s response to Alice defies perception. Right here’s this bloodied girl, dressed like Kizzy from “Roots” and freaking out as a result of she’s by no means been in a truck earlier than. She doesn’t know what 12 months it’s and she or he pukes on his seats. Frank isn’t in the slightest degree involved. Maybe she has amnesia, he assumes.
This results in an emergency room scene with a hilarious, inept cameo in the form of a blonde nurse you’d discover in a hospital run by Roger Corman. She sentences Alice to a 72-hour psychiatric analysis earlier than Frank helps her escape. “They’ll drill holes in your mind!” he tells her. The 2 leads have zero chemistry, they usually’re compelled to utter such atrocious dialogue that you simply really feel sorry for them. Palmer offers it a recreation, respectable try, however, Widespread offers the worst efficiency of his profession. At first, I assumed they each appeared like they’d been compelled to look on this film. Then I noticed that they had been the producers.
Each scene in “Alice” raises questions that obliterate one’s suspension of disbelief. Ver Linden’s lack of ability to construct both parts of the movie’s universe dooms the film. She strands her actors, by no means as soon as permitting them three-dimensions nor something that resembles widespread sense. The trendy-day slavery angle shouldn’t be solely unexplained however a ripoff of “Antebellum.” That movie was way viler but in addition extra plausible. And that’s the film with the slavery amusement park! A gap title says “Alice” is “impressed by true occasions,” that catch-all phrase that will get dragged out when the filmmakers need you to purchase some unsellable nonsense.
The Blaxploitation-inspired second half is exponentially worse than the primary. Alice finds Frank’s reminiscence field, revealing that he was as soon as a Black Panther. She additionally finds all these books on Black empowerment, which she reads as shortly as Johnny 5, the speed-reading robotic from “Short Circuit.” Whereas she will get educated, the movie reveals a montage of individuals like Malcolm X and Angela Davis. The clips are out of context and are subsequently ineffective as something apart from fetishistic lip service. In a single afternoon, Alice turns radicalized and, after freaking out over the phone’s busy sign, turns into a skilled at dialing each title within the telephone guide that seems like her oppressors. Fortunately, racists who’re hiding Black folks and utilizing them as slaves have listed numbers.
Alice additionally finds magazines with Pam Grier and Diana Ross on the covers. She’s impressed to provide herself an improbable, enviable Afro not by Ebony or Jet Journal, but by Rolling Stone. When Frank takes her to see “Coffy,” she decides to return to the plantation for precise revenge. In the meantime, wah-wah guitar, Stevie Wonder, and previous soul protest songs blare on the soundtrack, doing every little thing they will persuade us we’re in a Blaxploitation film. Not even a genius like Stevie can pull it off.
After what looks like an eternity, Alice returns to face Bennet. I received’t spoil the climax for you, however, I’ll say that Coffy, Cunning Brown, and Cleo Jones would have all been extra ruthless than Alice is. Regardless of seeing a Blaxploitation movie earlier than embarking on her quest, she realized nothing about how they work nor what they’re about in any respect. The makers of this nugatory piece of trash didn’t study both.