Alice is inspired by true accounts and has Quentin Tarantino-esque vibes once it gets into the Blaxploitation part of the film.
I needed to sleep on this one. It’s been over twelve hours since pressing play and I’m still not sure what to think. When it comes to Sundance premieres that touch on slavery, Descendant is the better of the two offerings.
The gist of the film is that Alice (Keke Palmer) is an enslaved woman living on a Georgia plantation. You’d think it was just before the Civil War in 1860, right? No. Call it stranger-than-fiction or what you will but there were plantation owners who still held slaves over 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation. How they were able to get away with such bullshit is beyond me. Alice doesn’t discover this until after she fights Paul (Jonny Lee Miller) and runs off into the woods. Once she reaches the end of the service road, she sees a highway and nearly gets hit by Frank’s (Common) truck. Frank thinks Alice has amnesia or something but she clearly has her memories and knows exactly who she is. Alice quickly catches up on the past 100 years of history. When this happens, it’s over for Paul.
The concept itself is unbelievable. And yet, it actually happened. Maybe not the third act of the film but definitely everything leading up until the moment Alice stabs Paul in the eye and runs off. I’m a student of American history but even this was new to me. It doesn’t surprise me that racists were able to get away with such behavior for so long. There’s definitely a solid documentary here even if the narrative feature isn’t the best way.
The film packs a lot into its just over 90-minute run time. Krystin Ver Linden shows promise as a filmmaker but there’s just something about Alice that misses the mark. Is it the fact that the film combines two different genres in one? Maybe. Alice learning the events of the past 100-plus years is more of a montage. Nevermind some of the inventions like music and the telephone. The game-changer is when she gets introduced to Pam Grier’s work, especially Coffy. Regardless of how one feels about the film’s execution itself, Keke Palmer and Common are solid performers. Palmer crushes the role and does everything asked of her by filmmaker Krystin Ver Linden. It says a lot when the best part of Alice is watching the film’s third act.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Krystin Ver Linden
CAST: Keke Palmer, Common, Gaius Charles, Alicia Witt, and Jonny Lee Miller
Alice holds its world premiere during the 2022 Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. Dramatic Competition. Vertical Entertainment and Roadside Attractions will release the film in 2022.
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