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DVD Review: ALICE'S HOUSE

A CASA DE ALICE
Studio: Indiepix
Year: 2007
Cast: Carla Ribas, Berta Zemel, Vinicius Zinn, Ricardo Vilaca, Felipe Massuia, ZÈ Carlos Machado
Director: Chico Teixeria
Release Date: March 15, 2010, 7:14 pm
Rating: Not Rated for (adult situations)
Run Time: 01h:32m:15s

ìThere are too many men in this house. Thereís nothing but complaints.î - Alice (Carla Ribas)

ALICE'S HOUSE
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 I'm a sucker for internationally acclaimed, award-winning films, and, of course, having "One of the year's 10 best!" quoted on the cover doesn't hurt either.

Movie Grade: A

DVD Grade: B

Too many films these days rely on huge, bombastic explosions, and spoon-fed exposition to get their ìmessagesî across. Multiplexes are consistently overridden with CGI-laden spectacles that are more concerned with pushing an audienceís headache threshold then making their brains work a little harder than normal for a couple of hours. As a result, small, foreign gems like director Chico Teixeiraís 2007 effort Aliceís House are never even slightly considered for a wide theatrical release outside of their native countries, and, if theyíre lucky, will be exposed to a few U.S. critics via film festivals or small screenings in New York and L.A.

Alice (Carla Ribas) is a working-class woman living in Sao Paolo, Brazil whose life consists almost entirely of men. These men live with Alice, and include her cab-driving husband, Lindomar (ZÈ Carlos Machado), and her sons, Lucas (Vinicius Zinn), Edinho (Ricardo Vilaca), and Junior (Felipe Massuia). The only fellow female in Aliceís life is her mother, Dona Jacira (Berta Zemel), a tough old woman who knows exactly whatís going on all around her without letting on that she does. Alice has a difficult-enough time caring for everyone in her life and making ends meet, but when suspicions become more and more serious regarding her philandering husband, she has to take measures to ensure that her house remains in order.

A Hollywood story with a similar scenario for its protagonist would probably wind up being a feel-good tale of said protagonist emerging from her funk and becoming a strong, confident woman who becomes truly happy, with laughs-a-plenty along the way. Fortunately, Teixeira stays true to his vision and crafts a truly original story full of realism and nothing that comes close to being fabricated nonsense. His film is full of subtle twists and turns that not only leaves us engaged in every characterís life throughout, but, most importantly, leaves us reflecting on what weíve seen long after the film is over.

Carla Ribasí performance as the title character is nothing short of revelatory. She embodies the title character in a way that is both warm and, at times, heart-wrenching. While we may not be able to relate to Aliceís struggles, Ribas ensures that this character is portrayed as someone whom we easily could meet at some point during our life. Ribas brings plenty of toughness to a role that didnít exactly need it to succeed, but, in hindsight, without it wouldnít have been as compelling. To top it all off, she also shows us what is quite possibly the most ingenious way to break up a fight between people that she doesnít even come close to matching up with size-wise. This scene is the epitome of David Vs. Goliath, or in this case, Goliaths.

There isnít a single music cue in the film, and this only adds to the intimate feeling we get, practically living inside the house along with Alice and her family. This only goes to prove that subtlety can be far more effective than ridiculous bombast, as the silence here allows us to become totally immersed in what Teixeiraís characters and the rich, layered story being told. Perhaps this is Teixeiraís documentary filmmaking background seeping through to this, his feature film debut, but regardless, hereís hoping he doesnít change styles for future film projects, as Aliceís House was a dreary, yet extremely fulfilling place to visit.

Chuck Aliaga March 15, 2010, 7:14 pm