Alice Honest Movie Review
Alice (Emilie Piponnier) lives a perfect life with her son and husband Francois (Martin Swabey), until one day her reality is turned upside down when she discovers her bank accounts are empty and her husband has vanished. In her desperate search for him, Alice discovers that Francois has developed an addiction to high-class escorts, spending the family’s savings to fund his exploits.
Alice delves deeper into the world of sex work in order to continue paying large sums of money back to the bank and settle his past debts, discovering more about herself and the emancipation from the shackles of societal norms that can be acquired in the process.
Alice, a French film filled with passion, despair, deceit, betrayal, and liberation, is a well-rounded package that checks all the boxes for a romantic drama. Alice, written and directed by Josephine Mackerras and led by a powerful and versatile performance from Piponnier, begins quickly. It dives into the storey at breakneck speed in the first act, but it is less blunt in establishing the characters’ personalities and the film’s motifs, with the intention of consistently developing them as we proceed.
Despite feeling rushed at first, this method works to a point, sweeping the viewer away into a world where many, like the protagonist, will have no real experience. Some of the dialogue is a little “on the nose,” but it becomes more forgivable as Alice’s world crumbles around her and she enters a land of unconventional behaviour.
Some of the most enjoyable scenes in the film come from Alice’s new-found friend Lisa (Chloé Boreham), and include humorous encounters during sexual activity. She, too, is an escort who first teaches Alice the art and simplicity of their job before moving on to show her how to live a fuller life, shedding light on how the various views society has on their profession can be tarnishing, but for the ladies themselves it can prove to be something more.
The friendship that develops between the two reaches its most satisfying climax near the end of the film, concluding the importance of their companionship and how, in life, a counterpart can open your eyes to what you truly want: happiness.
Overall, Alice is a daring success. However, our heroine never faces any shocking danger in her new profession throughout the film, causing our attention and interest in her fate to wane. It could be argued that, as the film enters a slightly messier third act, the addition of a greater threat from a source other than her desperate, redemption-seeking husband may have added that one final dynamic required to propel this film into the upper echelons of storytelling brilliance.
What fills this void, however, is a very touching ending that leaves you wondering if life’s true crime is settling for a dull marriage. After this 103-minute ride comes to a close, this moral quandary is certainly a provocative farewell, and it becomes clear why the film received a positive festival response, winning the Grand Jury Award at SXSW in 2019. If you’re looking for a sexy romantic thriller, then Alice is the book for you.