Raw Drama Under One Roof
"Alice's House," the debut feature of longtime documentary filmmaker Chico Teixeira, follows the ups and downs (mostly the downs) of a six-member Brazilian working-class family in Sao Paulo. Alice (Carla Ribas), who works in a beauty parlor, is at the center of it all, living with her mother, who's slowly going blind; a philandering husband; and three sons. One son is a soldier by day and a male prostitute by night, another steals from grandma and the angelic youngest sits around in teen mopiness. When Alice decides to take up with an old flame, who's also married, the insanity level of the household reaches fever pitch.
Yes, we seem to be watching all the secrets, unmet aspirations, hatred, bitterness and frustration that we can cram under one roof. But "Alice's House" isn't pitched as family farce or even soap opera. It's more of a naturalistic tableau of humans trying to negotiate the twists and turns of life with their own desperations and inadequacies. Even though it sounds awfully depressing, there's something moving about watching people go at their lives with everything they have -- or don't have.
As Alice, Ribas has wowed international film festival juries, winning several awards. She'll wow you, too, with her character's aching vulnerabilities as all of Sao Paulo seems to sag heavily on her shoulders.
-- Desson Thomson
Alice's House Unrated, 93 minutes Contains nudity, profanity, sexual situations and violence. In Portuguese with subtitles. At Landmark's E Street Cinema. Alice's House Unrated, 93 minutes Contains nudity, profanity, sexual situations and violence. In Portuguese with subtitles. At Landmark's E Street Cinema.