Customer Review

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For the First Time Katharine Hepburn Plays Against Type, September 7, 2000
This review is from: Alice Adams [VHS] (VHS Tape)
"Alice Adams" is directed by George Stevens from Booth Tarkington's 1921 Pulitzer Prize winner novel. Katharine Hepburn plays the title character, a lovesick young girl who vainly attempts to attain the same level as her socially superior acquaintances and to impress the young man, played by Fred MacMurray, she meets at a dance. There is also a rather hackneyed sub-plot involving her father's business ventures that distracts from the human drama.
Of course all of Alice's attempts to better her place in the world meet with a continuous string of disasters. Alice is embarrased to be escorted by her brother to the dance, prattles on about her family's nonexistent wealth, and will not let MacMurray into her house until she is finally and fatefully obliged to invite him to dinner. The comic highpoint of the film is the dinner party, where the family has hired a maid (Hattie McDaniel) to help with what becomes a total disaster.
Hepburn carries the emotional heart of the movie, and her strength as a maturing actress is captured in two scenes where she carries the moment with tears rather than words. After the dinner scene she runs to her bedroom and breaks down weeping at the window, finally crushed by all that has happens. When her father (Fred Stone), who has no clue the dinner has been a disaster, comments on how nice her date was, a tear roles down Hepburn's cheek. These two scenes created Hepburn's reputation as the screen's greatest "on cue" weeper.
Hepburn received her second Oscar nomination for this film. Her performance is vastly superior to when she won for "Morning Glory" (but more in keeping with her Jo March in "Little Women" that same year) primarily because this is the first successful film in which she acts against type (as opposed to her unsuccessful effort as a hillbillie gal in "Spitfire"). The Hepburn persona that becomes solidified in "The Philadelphia Story" and "Woman of the Year" is pretty much the opposite of Alice Adams. Instead of the goddess brought off her pedastal, here we have the girl from the wrong side of the tracks trying to get ahead in the world. This is one of the better opportunities to see Hepburn NOT play Hepburn (the other great example is "Long Day's Journey Into Night").
Of course, Hollywood tacked on a happy ending to the film version, and while it is not as jarring as what they did to "The Magnificent Ambersons," it does not make for a smooth conclusion. More importantly, it undoes the poignancy of Hepburn's farewell to MacMurray when she tells him: "You know, I have a strange feeling. I feel as though I'm only going to see you for five minutes more in my whole life."
Overall, Hepburn's performance overcomes the limitations of the script. The role was never going to become a Hepburn staple, but she plays it surprisingly well here. "Alice Adams" holds up better than most of her early RKO films.
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Initial post: Nov 14, 2011 9:02:54 AM PST
phillyrich says:
How are the extras on the disc? How good is film print?
Thanks.
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Lawrance Bernabo
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)    (COMMUNITY FORUM 04)   

Location: The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota

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