There are two reasons to watch Linda L. Larson’s scaled down character driven thriller. One is to see Larson’s bravado performance as the unbalanced Alice. In her film debut, Larson acts as writer, director, producer and star in this micro-budget movie about a deranged idiot-woman-child who kidnaps another woman named Rebecca (Nancy Lincors) and the two form an unlikely alliance. Told in a hallucinatory flashback style, Rebecca seems to meld into Alice’s thoughts and relives her past tragedies with her until they both come to understand why the two ended up together.
Rather convoluted and unintentionally ambiguous, “What Ever Happened to Alice” is too confined for its own good. Taking place almost entirely in one setting and featuring only five characters, its attempt at creating a claustrophobic feeling feels labored. However, and I did say there were two reasons to see “Alice”; the cinematography by Roderick E. Stevens is stunning. Granted, there are no sweeping crane shots, but he allows the camera to almost become a separate character. Between his artistry and Larson’s amazingly evenhanded execution, one gets a complete understanding of the character, if not a real grasp of the story.
In many ways, Larson’s unhinged portrayal reminds me of Carrie Snodgress’ tour de force in the underrated “The Attic”. In fact, “Alice” reminds me of a lot of other films, but it never becomes derivative. I never thought I’d say this, but I wish had been plagiaristic of something, because there are too many questions and unresolved answers. Larson is on the right track, and it’s refreshing to see an older woman (and a school teacher!) following their dreams to completion (I hope her students are paying attention in class!). I can see she’s got a good story inside of her but it just didn’t end up in this movie.