For 16 years, Alice Tate (Farrow) has been ignored by her husband (Hurt), spoiled by wealth, and tranquilized by boredom. But when she unexpectedly falls for a sexy musician (Mantegna) and impulsively consults a mysterious Chinese herbalist for advice, Alice begins a madcap journey into a strange new world of possibilities. But as she begins to realize who she is and what she values, Alice must also confront her deepest fears and decide how far she'll go for love and what she'll risk to change her destiny.
is one of Woody Allen's more grounded whimsies, though viewers with a low tolerance for feyness might miss it. Here goes Mia Farrow again as a nattering Manhattanite with a girlie-girlie voice and a well-to-do husband of 16 years (a stockbroker played by William Hurt) who doesn't always notice whether she's in the room. One day a back pain sends her up a dim staircase in Chinatown to see an acupuncturist (the valedictory role of the beloved Keye Luke). He has quite a bag of tricks--including hypnosis and a versatile assortment of herbal teas--and enough insight to recognize that Alice's troubles lie somewhere other than her sacroiliac. Under Dr. Yang's ministrations, Alice goes on a Wonderland voyage through her own life, fantasizing about having an affair with a dusky stranger (Joe Mantegna), flitting about Manhattan as an invisible spirit, and--most unlikely of all--talking straight with her various relatives, past and present.
Like so many Allen films, Alice wavers between scenes imagined with deftness and precision (like Farrow and Mantegna's astonished mutual seduction) and other scenes and notions that are merely touched upon and then abandoned before they can develop any rhythm and complexity, persuade you they were worth including, and justify the presence of so many nifty performers--Judy Davis, Judith Ivey, Gwen Verdon, Robin Bartlett, Alec Baldwin, Holland Taylor, Cybill Shepherd, Blythe Danner, Julie Kavner, Caroline Aaron--who mostly wink in and out again as cameos. Nevertheless, almost all Woody's looking glasses are worth passing through at least once. --Richard T. Jameson