I had kind of an odd experience watching What Alice Found. What little I had read about it in advance led me to believe it was a certain type of crime drama about two people victimizing and exploiting a young girl.
So for a good part of the movie, I’m feeling like this is reasonably good, except that it telegraphs who the bad guys are and roughly what they’re up to, while making the victim unrealistically oblivious. But at the same time, I’m wondering how much of my perception is due to the fact that I read about the movie in advance. How obvious would it be if I really were coming into this cold?
Then gradually I come to realize, wait a minute, the “obvious” isn’t even for sure what’s happening. I may have misinterpreted what I read in advance, because now there’s some ambiguity.
But somehow I was primed more for the kind of movie I thought it was rather than the kind of movie it turned out to be. I found the predictability (which turned out not to be predictable after all) a little unsatisfying, but other than that I thought the suspense and the crime thriller stuff was developing quite nicely, and I was getting into that. Then when it kind of went in a different direction—ironically, arguably making it a better, more thoughtful, less conventional, movie—it seemed to noticeably slow down and I felt a certain disappointment that I wasn’t going to get the suspense payoff I’d thought it was building toward.
Once it settled into the other mode, I still liked it OK, but it wasn’t as engaging somehow. I admire the decision to go in the less obvious direction, but the execution is only fair.
But I wonder now how I would have experienced this movie had I not read about it in advance, or had I read a description that didn’t lead me to believe it was a certain kind of straightforward crime thriller.
A working class girl about 18 or 19 with a troubled home life in Massachusetts decides to drive her junker car down to Florida to drop in on her friend who has just started college. Her car breaks down in a way that makes her suspect some kind of sabotage.
A kindly older Southern couple (who look to be about in their 50s) in a motor home takes pity on her and befriends her, telling her the car is now worth less than it would cost to fix and encouraging her to abandon it, and letting her ride with them. They feed her, even buy her clothes and such.
Come to find out the older woman is a prostitute who works rest stops trolling for truckers (and yes, she absolutely should be past the retirement age for this line of work). Soon the girl seems headed the same way, with their getting a cut of course.
The girl is not super hot or anything, but largely based on her youth she’s certainly decent. Boy is she a lousy lay though. Just kind of lies there motionless, looking impatient, practically rolling her eyes. I’d want a refund.
Heck, maybe the old lady would be the better choice after all. (Not really, but it’s closer than it should be.)
The older woman is actually probably the most interesting character in the movie. One of the things watching her caused me to reflect on is her kind of proper, Southern, friendly verbal style.
Let’s say the default attitude such a person manifests is positive and friendly and welcoming and all that. Maybe she’s not in that mode a hundred percent of the time, but far more often than not, she is. And let’s say further that of course she’s not really in that good a mood all the time, or as favorably inclined toward everyone, including strangers, as that behavior would indicate.
Let’s then also specify that in fact she’s a nice person who likes people. So maybe the average person is favorably disposed toward the people she’s with 50% of the time, and this person is favorably disposed toward the people she’s with 85% of the time, but acts all sweet and nice toward them out of habit and politeness 98% of the time.
So is such a person a phony? At a certain level there’s a manipulativeness to it. She knows that “you get more flies with honey than vinegar,” so she’s nice even when she’s not feeling nice, because it “works.”
On the other hand it does kind of make the world a more pleasant place when people are strongly inclined to be nice to each other even when that doesn’t fully match what they’re feeling inside, when it’s just kind of their default behavior in neutral situations.
I suppose it comes down to the attitude and purpose behind projecting that image. If you’re pretending to feel favorably toward someone so they’ll lower their guard so you can take advantage of them that’s one thing, whereas if you act a little nicer than you feel and are always striving to bring your attitude up to match what you’re projecting that’s another.
I liked What Alice Found OK. Like I say, the second half is a little slower and less suspenseful than the first half, but overall it’s worth a mild recommendation.