Tracker Pixel for Entry

​Ver Linden Debuts ‘Alice’

Cinema | March 21st, 2022

By Greg Carlson

gregcarlson1@gmail.com

Krystin Ver Linden's feature debut "Alice" premiered in the U.S. Dramatic Competition section at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival and arrived in theaters March 18.

The Sundance press notes described the movie as "equal parts earthy Southern Gothic and soulful Blaxploitation," but critical reactions since its January debut have been decidedly mixed. The imaginative genre-mashup works in fits and starts, but there is no question about the quality of lead Keke Palmer's smooth Pam Grier-inspired performance – even if she inhabits a universe that never fully comes together for viewers. Theatrical box office potential for the Roadside Attractions limited release looks to be quiet.

Palmer’s protagonist, enslaved by cruel plantation owner Paul Bennet (Jonny Lee Miller), survives the horrors of daily assault, rape, and abuse by the cruel and inhumane monster for whom she toils. Ver Linden, who appends a title card suggesting the story was “inspired by true events,” claims to have drawn from the accounts of people who remained in bondage following the Emancipation Proclamation. This basic premise was also used in Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz’s problematic “Antebellum,” another messy and uneven feature led by a performance (Janelle Monae in the 2020 movie) stronger than either the script or the direction.

In an interview with Julia Teti for “She Knows,” Ver Linden cites the story of Mae Miller, whose own “involuntary servitude” concluded in Mississippi in the 1960s, as the true-life account that stuck with the filmmaker during the creative process. In “Alice,” like other films that operate using variations of the City in a Bottle trope, we discover that the period setting is not, in fact, the mid 1800s. When a bewildered Alice escapes to a stretch of highway and nearly gets creamed by a truck driven by one-time Black Panther Frank (Common), Ver Linden reveals that the setting is 1973. In an instant, everything Alice thinks she knows about the world is erased.

Once the determined heroine trades her braids for an afro – Ver Linden’s most prominent visual signifier of her movie’s indebtedness to “Coffy,” “Foxy Brown,” and other action-packed 70s-era revenge thrillers – the film lurches toward a predictable showdown that fails to deliver the kind of ass-kicking violence perfected by Grier. Odie Henderson’s brutal takedown of “Alice” makes a series of compelling arguments against Ver Linden’s movie. While I am not sure whether the film features Common’s career-worst performance, I do concur that there is little chemistry shared between him and Palmer.

Henderson torches the “fetishistic lip service” paid to the cultural figures who ignite Alice’s outrage, suggesting that Ver Linden rushes her character’s transformation into radicalized freedom fighter. I don’t disagree that the director’s shorthand is too short, or that one must really suspend disbelief to enjoy “Alice.” There are, however, enough touches that make the film worth a look. In particular, I keep returning to a diner scene in which Alice confronts a white supremacist played by Alicia Witt. How we got there doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it’s one of the only sections of the movie that addresses the past/present divisions of the film both structurally and philosophically. “Alice” sorely needed more of this. 

Recently in:

By Olivia Slyteroslyter.g@cord.eduPhotos by Sabrina HornungFor months, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has been asking the heavy question “Should the 1973 ruling of Roe v. Wade be overturned?” On May 2nd,…

MayKenny Wayne Shepherd KWS creates genre-defining rock n' roll.Fargo Theatre, Sunday, May 1,…

Thursday, May 26, 5-7 pm, on view May 26-July 7   Spirit Room Gallery, 111 Broadway N, FargoDennis Terhak attended Moorhead State College after serving four years in the Marine Corps. He spent 25 years wielding a brush, working as…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.comOur opinion: It’s not a matter of pro-life or pro-choice, it’s anti-womanI hate to admit it, but aside from the Women’s March in 2017, I hadn’t attended a rally or a march since the Bush…

By Ed Raymondfargogadfly@gmail.com If You Want a Free University Education, Why Not Go to Europe?Why are President Joe Biden and the White House in some kind of sleep mode? Very little is getting done! We can’t afford to go back…

Well shiver me timbers. After weeks of sampling some of the finest drinks in F-M from more bars than we could shake a belaying pin at, the results of High Plains Reader’s 6th Annual Cocktail Showdown are in! For nine weeks,…

By Rick Gionrickgion@gmail.comPhoto by Rick GionAs you may have read, the Hotel Donaldson and the Hodo Lounge are transitioning to the ownership group that runs the Blarney Stone Irish Pubs in North Dakota. Although feelings seem…

By Michael Str!ke  michaelstrike.solo@gmail.comThe word noise can mean so many different things. But here in Fargo, our Noise scene is thriving as what many…

By Greg Carlsongregcarlson1@gmail.com Novelist/screenwriter/director Alex Garland has earned a sizable and devoted following over the years. His previous two feature directorial efforts, “Ex Machina” and “Annihilation,”…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.comArtwork: Woodcut by Danielle Gravon titled "Allegory of Fargo Winter I"On June 18, the Rourke will be holding their 62nd annual Midwestern Preview, the date celebrating the opening anniversary of…

By Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comDrag shows, for me, feel like a celebration of artistry, esthetic, music, and camaraderie. With a dash of confetti thrown in.The local drag community is a close-knit family. Giving back to affiliated…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.comCharlie Berens is a man of many hats. The creator of the “Manitowoc Minute” is a newsman, comedian, writer and musician. We had the opportunity to speak with the Wisconsin native about his new…

By Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comSpring is here (mostly), and our area is buzzing with people eager to get back out and about -- many newly vaccinated and feeling a bit safer. Partnering with Jade Events, Fargo Brewing is just…

by Laurie J Bakeremsdatter@gmail.com Part of modern yoga is participating in the world around us. We live in a time of upheaval in society and nature, and of great suffering in humans of all ages. Most of us perceive this suffering…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.comLehr Mayor and Council Members Donate City Salaries To Save Legion HallEvery rural community has at least one social space that holds multiple generations of memories and has remained a social…

Hukun provided his responses via email. “I live in downtown Fargo. Downtown living makes everything accessible and convenient! I love taking my kids to Lindenwood, and enjoy the food at Rugsan on 13th Avenue. I also like shopping…