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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Alice's House
Alice's House
Other // Unrated // June 23, 2009
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Chris Neilson | posted July 23, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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Alice's House (A Casa de Alice) is a Brazilian slice-of-life drama set in a working-class São Paulo neighborhood. Alice (Carla Ribas), a tired, forty-something manicurist, shares her three-bedroom apartment with her elderly mother (Berta Zemel), her taxi-driver husband (Zécarlos Machado), and their three sons, ranging in age from 15 to 21.

Each character has a personal drama brewing worthy of a long-running arc in a television soap opera: Alice's mother is losing her eyesight, the eldest son is a homosexual prostitute, the middle son is a petty thief, the youngest is on the verge of his first sexual encounter, Alice's serially unfaithful husband is seeing an underage girl from the building, and an old flame reenters Alice's life.

Although an experienced documentary filmmaker, this is a début work of fiction by writer-director Chico Teixeira. Despite writing enough character background to fuel the heaviest melodrama, Teixeira brings extreme realism and subtlety to the execution. Shot on handheld DV in real locations, Teixeira is as keen to capture the mundane as the extraordinary. Alice using the toilet is given more screen time than her violent confrontation with the school girl sleeping with her husband. Similarly, drama is as likely to take place off camera as it is on.

To the extent that Alice's House distinguishes itself from the recent crop of realistic family dramas, it does so mostly through the quality of its performances, especially from lead actress Carla Ribas in her screen début, and from the 73-year-old veteran soap-opera actress Berta Zemel.

Presentation
Video:
Shot on DV using real locations and mostly natural light, Alice's House's was bound to look dark, but the letterboxed widescreen provided here makes it look that much more dreary. Lack of video detail and mild digital combing also serve to make this release look unappealing.

Optional subtitles are provided in English, Spanish, and French. However, at least a few of the translations appear off.

Audio:
The 2.0 DD Portuguese audio is mostly flat, though free of distortion or drop-out.

Extras:
The extras, consisting of perfunctory materials without much charm or insight, include a making-of documentary (15:37), an interview with the director (9:18) and an interview with lead actress Carla Ribas (7:47). Also included is the American-release theatrical trailer for Alice's House, and trailers for three other films released on DVD by IndiePix.

Final Thoughts:
Alice's House is a Brazilian slice-of-life drama whose charms are exceedingly subtle, almost to the point of being underwhelming. Though worth a viewing by art house fans that enjoy their drama realistically mundane, this unexceptional faire will not appeal to most viewers.

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