ALICE’S HOUSE (Chico Teixeira). 92 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (July 11). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NNN
Here’s a slice of Brazilian life that just misses being totally compelling.
In a middle-class family in São Paulo, manicurist Alice (Carla Ribas) lives with a husband (Zé Carlos Machado) who’s sleeping around with teenagers, three sons who ignore her and her mother (Berta Zemel), who knows everyone’s secrets. That’s because the mother does the laundry and the men, who treat her like a servant, leave clues about their activities in their jeans pockets.
Alice’s House is a story about delusion, secrets and betrayal. The characters’ personal dilemmas feel real – Alice is outraged by her husband’s infidelities even as she’s pursuing an old boyfriend, for example – and the performances, especially Ribas’s, are terrific.
But it’s a bit too real. Like life, it has no narrative arc, and the dialogue sometimes comes close to banal. It also ends just as the narrative arrives at a point of major tension, leaving some of the major plot threads hanging.
But if you’re looking for a decent small film as an antidote to the summer blockbusters’ zillion jolts per minute – and who can blame you? – you’ll get satisfaction here.