Nothing in life comes free. It’s a lesson we all learn at one time or another; a lesson that Alice (Emily Grace) learns during the course of “What Alice Found.” Bored with her surroundings, frustrated by her dead-end job as a grocery store clerk, and terrified of following in her white trash mom’s footsteps, Alice makes a break for it. She steals some money from the store and heads for Miami with the well-intentioned, if ill thought-out goal of becoming a marine biologist.
Unfortunately, her rattletrap Ford Escort has other ideas, breaking down along the way and delivering her into the seemingly friendly care of Bill (Bill Raymond) and Sandra (Judith Ivey). Relatively young for retirees, the outgoing couple travel the country in their well-equipped RV.
They take Alice under their wing and offer to take her the rest of the way to Miami. Sandra, in particular, fusses over the attractive, if slightly frumpy young woman, buying her clothes, fixing her hair, the works. At first, Alice just assumes that she’s being pampered over as a sort of surrogate for Sandra’s estranged daughter. But when Alice discovers a truck driver emerging from Sandra’s bedroom, a trucker with whom she had seen Bill negotiating earlier in the evening, the source of Bill and Sandra’s income becomes as clear as the less than innocent reasons Sandra wanted Alice to get all dolled up.
“What Alice Found” is an unusual angle on the age-old coming of age story. Filled with solid performances by veteran actors Ivey and Raymond, as well as a captivating performance by newcomer Grace, the film delves into its sordid subject in a very matter-of-fact, and surprisingly non-judgmental way. Director A. Dean Bell’s film misses out on the opportunity to threaten Alice with more of a sense of danger and a more ominous overall feel. Instead, it sort of rounds off its corners and lets things resolve all too easily just when they might have gotten really intense and interesting.
Maybe that’s just not this movie, however. What we do find in “What Alice Found” is an otherwise refreshing road movie about a tough but tender young woman’s pursuit of a dream.