Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


ALICE'S RESTAURANT (1969). Director: Arthur Penn.

Arthur Penn thought it would be a good idea to make a movie out of Arlo Guthrie's 18 minute song "Alice's Restaurant," which detailed how a littering charge supposedly kept him out of the Vietnam War. Unfortunately, even an 18 minute song isn't enough to base a whole movie on, and there is no real story, or even interesting characters, in Venable Herndon's screenplay to hold your attention. Alice Brock, the owner of the actual restaurant, is brought into the story (played by Pat Quinn), along with Ray Brock (James Broderick, father of Matthew), but they have little dimension. Peter Seeger briefly plays himself but we never really get to know him. Arlo Guthrie isn't a bad actor, although some might say he's only playing himself as well and trading on a likable personality. Surely the events of this troubled era in United States history had more drama to it than this picture, which is sometimes as boring as any dull home movie, would suggest? William Obanhein, the actual police officer who arrested Guthrie for littering, also plays himself, but the movie doesn't bother to develop him as a character, either. The suddenly downbeat ending is pretentious; the movie tries to say something but doesn't. Nevertheless, it made money and Arthur Penn was inexplicably nominated for an Oscar that he didn't win. The song itself is moderately catchy but hardly a classic.

Verdict: Perfect tedium. *1/2.

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