After achieving some success with the brilliant, independently made MEAN STREETS, Martin Scorsese was given a chance to direct a mainstream Hollywood film. The result is this effective but uneven work, which chronicles a woman's search for self.

Burstyn stars as an unhappy housewife living in New Mexico with her cruel husband (Bush) and their precocious, somewhat spoiled son (Lutter). When Bush dies, Burstyn and son pack up their belongings and head for Monterey, California, where she hopes to begin the singing career she has always

dreamed about. Along the way she has a brief fling with the frightening Keitel, but must take flight when his violent temper erupts. When her car breaks down, she takes a job at an Arizona diner run by crusty Tayback and becomes best pals with salty Diane Ladd. Kristofferson is a rancher who

frequents the restaurant, and he and Burstyn soon begin an awkward courtship. Burstyn won a well-deserved Oscar for her performance, and she is matched in expertise by Ladd and Tayback, but the acting cannot conceal the storyline's shortcomings. The film was the inspiration for the television

series "Alice" starring Linda Lavin, with Tayback reprising his role as the owner of Mel's Diner. Also receiving Oscar nominations were Ladd for Supporting Actress and Getchell for his screenplay.