- Directed by Arthur Penn
- August 19, 1969
This is an adaptation of the 1967 folk song “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” (commonly referred to as “Alice’s Restaurant”) by Arlo Guthrie.
Alice’s Restaurant is definitely a weird movie. Very weird. The few films containing Thanksgiving seem to be rather saccharine. Not so here. In fact saccharine isn’t even connected to this. This is a quirky comedic view of 60s life. This is a low budget late 60s film and it certainly shows in that aspect. But the story is interesting enough even if some of the performances are not quite up to what they should be.
This movie is based off of a song which was reportedly based off of a real event in Arlo Guthrie’s life that occurred around Thanksgiving. I’m not sure all the details of either but when viewed through that it does help the film get over its shortcomings and for some moments to pack a little bit more punch.
The narrative at times can be a little unfocused which causes the film to stumble around. Perhaps it is because of the padding added to turn a two-part folk song into a film that caused a great deal to be put in this movie. And there is a lot packed in here. I’m talking a lot!
Arlo Guthrie is Arlo and is supposed to be the focus of the film, but he is more what connects the assorted elements rather than a central character. He is introduced in the beginning and then moves to the background. This may have been a decision on the part of the filmmakers in a fashion similar to what they did with Schwarzenegger in Conan the Barbarian. I’m not calling this the equivalent of Conan the Barbarian or Conan the equivalent of this. Anyway…
The song itself was a protest against the Vietnam War and this movie does contain elements of that but comes off more as a protest of the general culture of the country of the time. We have hippies buying a church, the draft, and just the general inconveniences of life of the time.
I found something enjoyable and kind of endearing about this movie. I think that’s in large part because the people behind it put a serious effort forward. This wasn’t a halfhearted attempt. Despite limitations in skill and budget they set forth to make a good film and that care for what they were doing came through. It gets its message across without feeling like a lecture.
The big story among the other plots focuses on the relationship between the titular Alice (Pat Quinn) and her husband Ray (James Broderick). It is a clearly dysfunctional relationship, but they proceed ahead with it anyway. Ray and Alice have a hippie style wedding and the film ends on a somber note with Alice watching guests leave the wedding. You are left with the feeling that their future will not be a pleasant one. An effectively downbeat cap to the story.
Alice’s Restaurant is an interesting look at one songwriter’s view of things as well as the environment of the day it was made. I will give us an if you want for Thanksgiving viewing.