Like so many Allen films, Alice wavers between scenes imagined with deftness and precision (like Farrow and Mantegna's astonished mutual seduction) and other scenes and notions that are merely touched upon and then abandoned before they can develop any rhythm and complexity, persuade you they were worth including, and justify the presence of so many nifty performers--Judy Davis, Judith Ivey, Gwen Verdon, Robin Bartlett, Alec Baldwin, Holland Taylor, Cybill Shepherd, Blythe Danner, Julie Kavner, Caroline Aaron--who mostly wink in and out again as cameos. Nevertheless, almost all Woody's looking glasses are worth passing through at least once. --Richard T. Jameson
The reality of this film, which lies in the complicated adult affairs, including marital infidelity, and the urban scenes of New York City, are contrasted but mingled effectively with the "magic" that is dominant in the film. Alice is consulting a spiritual Oriental doctor who gives her all sorts of herbs and potions, including one which renders her invisable. The scene in which she and Joe Montegna are invisible in the women's clothes store is hilarious. Joe Montegna sneaks into a fitting room to spy on a model dressing. "There's a lot of heavy breathing coming from in here" says the model. Meanwhile Alice overhears her friends talking about her behind her back. Ultimately, Alice must make a choice. She has the cure for her problem. A love potion. But will she select her husband or her lover ? Her decision is unexpected and maybe even a bit off-putting to some viewers who would have preferred she remain in the realm of humans and romantic affairs and materialism. The movie had been going this way until the decision which is to reject worldliness and Mia Farrow is inspired by the humanitarian and noble work of Mother Teresa. I feel that it's at least true to Mia Farrow's real life nature. She is notorious for adopting many foreign children from war-torn and poverty stricken countries. This movie is still very good and I really enjoyed it. The witty script by Woody Allen and his position as director and Mia Farrow's husband is also very effectiive. It's a great film by a master of comedy that makes you think. If only this movie was available on DVD here.
The movie is worth seeing for the stunningly crisp cinematography, odd use of color (especially in Farrow and Hurt's bizarre apartment) and unerringly apt musical choices. Woody's deep feeling for jazz is the unbilled star here, and when a lush string orchestra with muted trumpet strikes up a silvery and sensitive chorus of "I Remember You" just before Alice awakes to a visitation from her long-dead lover (Baldwin) you get a palpable sense of the heroine's pent-up longings.
Joe Mantegna is terrific. He uses those sleepy, heavy-lidded eyes of his to superb effect; those eyes tell us more than Woody's sketchy script ever will.
The film's most electrifying sequence brings the great, underutilized actress Gwen Verdon out of the shadows to play Alice's boozy mom. We've seen this boozy mom archetype in Allen films before: Maureen O'Sullivan in Hannah, Elaine Stritch in September. But none of them brought the FIRE that seethes from Verdon. Verdon conveys such waste and degradation that I felt as if I were witness to something horribly private. And there lies the movie's greatest sin: we just get this one scene and no more. What happened? Was the loaded gun triangle of Farrow, Verdon and "the accomplished sister" Blythe Danner to hot for Woody to handle???
I didn't mind the whimsy of Alice. But there was a meatier, darker story here waiting to be told, and Allen backs away from telling it. Still, given how bad, coarse, loud, vulgar and passionless nearly all of Allen's post-Mia films have been, Alice looks more and more like a gift as time goes by.