×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film review: ‘Alice T.’

Centering a feature on a teenage pathological liar whose character repels sympathy creates too many audience barriers for Radu Muntean’s forced drama.

Director:
Radu Muntean
With:
Andra Guți, Mihaela Sîrbu, Cristine Hămbăşanu, Ela Ionescu, Bogdan Dumitrache, Teo Corban

Radu Muntean’s particular brand of undramatic Romanian realism works best when it’s possible to extend sympathy to his main characters; when likability is non-existent, the experiment falls flat. That’s the inescapable flaw of “Alice T.,” a slice-of-life look at a narcissistic 16-year-old fabulist of unredeeming unpleasantness who leads her mother and friends on a merry lark when she gets pregnant, claims to want the child, and then medically aborts without telling her family. A final, overextended scene appears to locate some kind of frightened remorse in the teen, but few will buy this kind of redemption. Muntean’s reputation with the festival crowd should guarantee a fair amount of travel, but not as much as his earlier films.

Characterized by flaming red hair and a hardened streak of intractability, Alice (Andra Guti) has just taken abortion money from her boyfriend Horatiu (Octavian Strunila), although she has no plans of going to the clinic. All hell breaks loose when her divorced mother Bogdana (Mihaela Sîrbu, always a welcome presence) realizes that her daughter is pregnant, but Alice counters that Bogdana, who adopted her as an infant, couldn’t understand what it’s like. Attitudes change when they go to the doctor and see the sonogram pictures — Bogdana’s maternal feelings override her anger, and she offers loving support.

With things calmer at home, Alice continues to bully her classmates (when she bothers to show up for school) and then takes abortion pills, which do their work while she’s watching TV with a friend. Blithely cleaning up the blood and treating it all as if it’s a bit of fun, she then spends family time pretending she’s still pregnant, weaving a cloak of lies that she wears with casual abandon. Clearly all the falsehoods are designed to control the world around her, and yet that realization offers more shoulder shrugs than compassion.

There’s just one scene of warming intimacy in the movie, when Alice asks her grandmother (Alexandrina Halic) about when she discovered that Bogdana had lost her virginity. The three generations sit on a bed giggling, sharing a loving moment, and yet, it’s so uncharacteristic of Alice and the film that it takes a few seconds to remember that even pathological liars can need a cuddle session. This doesn’t mean however, as attempted in the final sequence, that Alice has a genuine road to Damascus moment, and the script’s overreach here ends the film on a major false note. It’s a pity because there are times when Muntean’s attention to small details recalls why some of his other films offer superior satisfactions, as in a bathroom-set scene when Alice struggles under pressure to open the plastic packaging on a home pregnancy testing kit.

Relative newcomer Guti has no problem holding the screen, instilling the character with an uncontrollable self-centered energy that holds the attention even as it corrodes pity. But most of our sympathy goes to Sîrbu’s Bogdana, who seems to have tried her best to raise her daughter largely alone, though it would have been good to have a little more sense of the woman. Cinematographer Tudor Lucaciu creates some striking images, showcasing Alice’s Raggedy-Ann red hair and using it as a focal point for a teenager eager to draw attention to herself.

Film review: 'Alice T.'

Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (competing), Aug. 3, 2018. Running time: 105 MIN.

Production: (Romania-France-Sweden) A Voodoo Films (in Romania), BAC Films (in France) release of a Multi Media Est presentation of a Multi Media Est, Les Films de l’Après-Midi, Film i Väst, Chimney production, in collaboration with Cofinova 14, Societatea Română de Televiziune. (Int'l sales: Films Boutique, Berlin.) Producers: Dragoș Vîlcu, Oana Iancu. Co-producers: François D’Artemare, Tomas Eskilsson, Jon Mankell, Katarina Krave. Executive producer: Dragoș Vîlcu.

Crew: Director: Radu Muntean. Screenplay: Alexandru Baciu, Răzvan Rădulescu, Muntean. Camera (color, widescreen), Tudor Lucaciu. Editor: Andu Radu.

With: Andra Guți, Mihaela Sîrbu, Cristine Hămbăşanu, Ela Ionescu, Bogdan Dumitrache, Teo Corban, Alina Berzunţeanu, Şerban Pavlu, Maria Popistaşu, Florin Hriţcu, Alexandrina Halic, Radu Muntean, Octavian Strunila. (Romanian dialogue)

More Film

  • FX's 'Snowfall' Panel TCA Winter Press

    John Singleton Hospitalized After Suffering Stroke

    John Singleton, the two-time Oscar nominated director and writer of “Boyz N’ the Hood,” has suffered a stroke. Sources confirm to Variety that Singleton checked himself into the hospital earlier this week after experiencing pain in his leg. The stroke has been characterized by doctors as “mild.” According to TMZ, which first broke the news, [...]

  • 'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow

    'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow Easter Weekend at the Box Office

    New Line’s horror pic “The Curse of La Llorona” will summon a solid $25 million debut at the domestic box office, leading a quiet Easter weekend before Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” hits theaters on April 26. The James Wan-produced “La Llorona,” playing in 3,372 theaters, was a hit with hispanic audiences, who accounted for nearly 50% [...]

  • Jim Jarmusch in 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    Film Review: 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    “Carmine Street Guitars” is a one-of-a-kind documentary that exudes a gentle, homespun magic. It’s a no-fuss, 80-minute-long portrait of Rick Kelly, who builds and sells custom guitars out of a modest storefront on Carmine Street in New York’s Greenwich Village, and the film touches on obsessions that have been popping up, like fragrant weeds, in [...]

  • Missing Link Laika Studios

    ‘Missing Link’ Again Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Annapurna Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the second week in a row with “Missing Link.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $5.91 million through Sunday for [...]

  • Little Woods

    Film Review: 'Little Woods'

    So much of the recent political debate has focused on the United States’ southern border, and on the threat of illegal drugs and criminals filtering up through Mexico. But what of the north, where Americans traffic opiates and prescription pills from Canada across a border that runs nearly three times as long? “Little Woods” opens [...]

  • Beyonce's Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping

    Beyonce's Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping $60 Million (EXCLUSIVE)

    Netflix has become a destination for television visionaries like Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy, with deals worth $100 million and $250 million, respectively, and top comedians like Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle ($40 million and $60 million, respectively). The streaming giant, which just announced it’s added nearly 10 million subscribers in Q1, is honing in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content