The Trip to Dreadful: Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Grubstakers

A living demonstration of Sundance priorities, the ultra-indie Special Jury Prize winner What Alice Found has a shaky grip on interesting raw materials: truck-stop prostitution and its peripheral wage-earner blues, as well as a general nation-of-roads sense of multi-axle nomadism. But amateurism smothers the baby in the crib: Beyond being merely shortsighted, ignorant of human interaction, and clogged with song-interlude padding, A. Dean Bell's nickel-and-dimer suffers from basic technical half-assed-ness. Apparently shot with a family camcorder, What Alice Found hardly has a single adequately matched eyeline cut in its entirety. They teach this stuff to freshman film students for a reason—otherwise, you've got a freshman film.

Bell stays focused on the interstate milieu, but it's difficult to believe a frame of it. His character is Alice (Emily Grace), a huffy, eye-rolling plain-Jane fool (or is Grace's acting limited to huffiness and eye-rolling?) who heads to Miami from New Hampshire with a leaf bag of clothes and a pocketful of stolen money. She doesn't get out of Pennsylvania before her car dies, allowing her to fall in with Sandra (Judith Ivey) and Bill (Bill Raymond), an RV-driving retired couple just lookin' to help out a stranger. The lollygagging way south grows slowly tense as Alice realizes that her friends are an aging parking-lot hooker and pimp, and that she's being gradually lured into whoredom herself.

Freshman blues: What Alice Found
photo: Castle Hill/Dream LLC
Freshman blues: What Alice Found

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What Alice Found
Written and directed by A. Dean Bell
Castle Hill, opens December 5, Quad

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The Carroll reference suggests ambitions that never materialize. Bell isn't afraid to make the few plot or character points blunt-force-trauma obvious—with fat close-ups, usually—and he has no eye for the landscape or ear for talk. Of course, Ivey hits the turf pitching and catching dialogue like a pro, but nothing could have saved What Alice Found from a fundamental cinematic illiteracy.

 
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