Through the Looking Glass
There is a duality in the title of this digital feature. We meet up with Alice driving alone down the Interstate from New Hampshire to Florida, now able to escape her unhappy life because of something she found, but about to find something else that turns out to be much more of a challenge.
Alice's friend is going to college in Florida, something Alice has only been able to dream of. Her trip comes off as an act of desperation, and we are slowly fed what led up to her stealthy exit from home as the movie goes on.
Alice pisses off some boys in another car, and after stopping at a rest stop, she returns to her car only to find a flat tire. A friendly older couple in an RV offer to help, and they get the tire changed - but a couple exits down, the engine overheats and has apparently burned itself out. As Sandra and Bill are headed south anyway, Alice travels with them - and here the real story begins.
Sandra takes on a bit of a motherly role, apparently finding Alice a substitute for the child she no longer has contact with. She buys new clothes for her, replacing Alice's plain look with a prettier, more provocative style reflecting her own Dixie roots. Alice enjoys the attention, feeling a bit more like part of a regular family.
But something seems to be amiss. And Alice figures it out before long as they stop at rest areas and truck stops on the slow journey south. Sandra is taking money for sex with the lonely trucks they find, and Bill helps make out the arrangements. Alice realizes that she has been made to look the role as well. What follows is a morass of subtle manipulation and suspicion as Alice finds herself without money and with nobody to lean on, save Bill and Sandra. The intriguing situation plays out on several levels before the curtain falls.
The film stars veteran stage actors Judith Ivey and Bill Raymond as Sandra and Bill, and young actress Emily Grace as Alice. The performances are generally spot on, though the digital format and sound design don't quite flatter them - I don't think this is a bad project for digital, but it could have been tuned a little better for the platform. Alice's New Hampshire accent comes in and out over the course of the movie.
The premise is wonderful. The script is pretty good, but doesn't quite live up to the premise. Mainly the two storylines are not balanced - which isn't to say I expect them to take up the same amount of time, but rather that the parallel that is being drawn requires something equal in weight. The premise passes the test, but it doesn't work on screen - I start feeling that the film would have been better served by stuffing the earlier storyline entirely in the first act, playing the whole thing out chronologically, instead of this less enthusiastic treatment.
I am encouraged by the effort, and the creativity and performances behind it. It plays out well, but has just a few too many distractions to get an enthusiastic recommendation from me, but it remains a worthwhile attempt.
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