A fantastic character study that feels completely full-formed and assured in what it achieves.
Alice navigates a series of men that entrap her in their orbit a she grapples with her identity, sense of place in society, and sense of how to relate with men. It never veers into feeling like a soap opera or immaterial, even with many sort of ‘setpiece’ scenes that tend toward the dramatic.
The film starts in nearly all red visually, reminiscent of MEAN STREETS, but goes on to illustrate all the varied colours and contours of Alice’s life as she winds her way, more or less, to her apparent dream of being a singer in Monterrey.
The characters feel so authentic and lived-in, particularly Alice’s son, and an enigmatic young girl played by Jodie Foster. Characters make mistakes over and over – even Alice’s final choices can easily be read as such -, but it’s all depicted with such empathy and with the wincing pain of understanding why people subject themselves to such things.
Part road movie, part series of scenes exploring the plight of a single mother trying to do right by both her song and herself, it all crackles with Scorsese verisimilitude and handle on character. Four diners and some disliked lamb.