What Alice Found

A restless teenager from Milford, N.H., impulsively hits the road and finds the world wild at heart and weird on top in this creepy character study that threatens to become a thriller. Face to face with a bleak future, recent high school graduate Alice (Emily Grace) abandons her poverty-stricken mother and a soul-killing supermarket job to join her more...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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A restless teenager from Milford, N.H., impulsively hits the road and finds the world wild at heart and weird on top in this creepy character study that threatens to become a thriller. Face to face with a bleak future, recent high school graduate Alice (Emily Grace) abandons her poverty-stricken mother and a soul-killing supermarket job to join her more fortunate best friend, Julie (Katheryn Winnick), at college in Florida, where Julie's studying marine biology. At a rest stop, Alice meets fading Southern belle Sandra (Judith Ivey) and her husband, Bill (Bill Raymond), under disturbing circumstances: Sandra tells Alice she saw someone messing with her car, and frets that Alice might be in danger of being robbed... or worse. Alice's car does break down on the dark highway and a stranger suddenly pulls over; fortuitously, Sandra and Bill come to the rescue — who'd have thought basset-faced Bill was carrying a gun? Alice accepts a lift — the good Samaritans are going to Florida, though at the unhurried pace of retired folks enjoying their four-wheeled freedom — and Sandra fusses over her like a long-lost daughter, fixing her hair, sharing makeup tips and even buying the frumpy Alice some sassy clothes. Broke and desperate to keep moving towards her new start, Alice ignores her growing intuition that something's going on. Her rude awakening comes soon enough. Alice has fallen through the looking glass into a world in which bubbly matrons like Sandra are lot lizards — truck-stop hookers — and pimps look like the basset-faced Bill. But Sandra's professional opinion that a fresh-faced youngster like Alice could easily command $200 per trick gets her thinking that perhaps she's stumbled onto an opportunity. Writer-director A. Dean Bell's shot-on-DV feature is technically rough around the edges, and Grace's generally effective performance is marred by a seriously wandering accent. But Bell handles the ambiguous relationship between Alice and her middle-aged mentors with remarkable precision and subtlety, slowly disclosing the fact that Alice isn't as innocent as she looks while withholding definitive information about Sandra and Bill. Are they flinty-eyed predators with dastardly plans for Alice, or just plain folks boosting their retirement income in an unconventional way? Newcomer Grace seems born to the part of an unformed young woman whose character cries out to be shaped, but it's Ivey's unobtrusive skill that shapes their onscreen relationship into something thoroughly convincing.

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  • Released: 2003
  • Rating: R
  • Review: A restless teenager from Milford, N.H., impulsively hits the road and finds the world wild at heart and weird on top in this creepy character study that threatens to become a thriller. Face to face with a bleak future, recent high school graduate Alice (Em… (more)

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