24th July 2020 (UK VOD Premiere)
Happily married Alice’s (Emilie Piponnier) life is turned upside down when she discovers her husband (Martin Swabey) has spent all their money on prostitutes and they are now a year behind on their mortgage. In a last-ditch bid to support herself and her child, Alice becomes a high-end escort, which challenges her perceptions of life and love.
Emilie Piponnier, Martin Swabey, Chloe Boreham
Not Yet Rated
In Josephine Mackerras perception-challenging French drama Alice, Emilie Piponnier plays the titular character whose life is turned upside down when she discovers her husband has stolen all her inheritance to spend on escort girls. Now he’s gone AWOL, the bank is chasing her for over a years worth of missed payments on their mortgage and she has a young son to look after.
During her digging into where her money went, she enquires about how the escort services operate. It’s information that they won’t provide over the phone but give her details about an upcoming interview for new escorts. Here’s the first time she hears about the breathtaking prices the women charge for their company. In financial dire straits, she takes a job at the agency – and begins on a path of independent self-discovery with results she never thought possible.
Winning the Grand Jury Award at 2019’s SXSW and the ‘Spirit of The Festival Award’ at the 27th Raindance Film Festival, Alice is the the debut feature film from multiple award-winning writer and director Josephine Mackerras. Not that you’d know it. Mackerras writing of Alice is delicate, sensitive and defiant. It has a controversial view on a social taboo and it’s going to shout it out loud whether you like it or not. That isn’t to say there isn’t any fun to be had here – Alice’s disastrous first encounter with a client had me wincing and laughing in equal measures.
Of course, the success of Alice would not have been possible without the sturdy anchoring from its lead in Emilie Piponnier. Displaying equal amounts of ‘Innocent Girl Next Door’ and ‘Woman Not To Mess With’ Piponnier is a revelation as a figure who finds catharsis in the paid company of men.
There’s an assured level of grounded reality in Alice‘s tone. Its solutions may be a little too idealistic, with Alice never really having any substantial troubles with clients. It’s just as well though, because away from her new job she’s got enough dilemmas to last a lifetime. Namely, her long AWOL husband Francois makes an unwelcome and grovelling return, blaming everyone but himself for his actions. Martin Swabey excels in the role, bringing even more hurdles and gives us even more reasons to root for Alice’s victory in the face of overwhelming adversity.
What really struck me is the way everyone uses Alice in their own ways. In the beginning, we see Alice trying to juggle the responsibilities of her own life as well as being ready to drop everything to offer aid to others. In her own time of need though, these same people are unwilling to help in various displays of selfishness. A startling phonecall to her mother is a real highlight of the film but low point for Alice and a pivotal moment in her realisation that the only person you can ever really count on is yourself.
Alice is not entirely alone in her voyage, however. She’s backed by fellow escort Lisa, an Australian who helps her come to terms with her new-found emancipation. Played with aplomb by Chloe Boreham, her vulnerability only comes to the surface very late in the game, but is no less impactful thanks to Boreham’s openness.
Ultimately, Alice is a success story of liberation through taking control of your own life, regardless of what others think of your path.
Alice is now streaming online through Virtual Cinemas. For more information and ways to watch, head to Eureka’s website.
Emilie Piponnier's revelation of a performance
Defiantly challenges societal perceptions
Little too idealistic in its escort sequences