Alice’s restaurant

Saturday 21 June 2003This is 20 years old. Be careful.

I saw Alice’s Restaurant (the movie) last night. I’ve always loved the original 18-minute Arlo Guthrie song. It’s practically a family tradition to find some radio station that plays it on the drive to Thanksgiving.

On the plus side: Arlo plays himself, as does Officer Obie and the blind judge. The real Alice is an extra in a few scenes. The movie was filmed in the actual church, which is now owned by Arlo as the Guthrie Center. Director Arthur Penn was nominated for an Oscar (though I don’t really see why).

On the minus side: Considering the movie is an attempt to stretch the song into a full-length movie, it does a bad job making full use of the song itself. It rushes through the re-enactment of the lyrics, poorly timing the gags it contains. Also, there are a number of oddly melodramatic sub-plots.

Overall, it was about what I expected: disjoint, confusing, idealistic, goofy, earnest. In other words, it nicely captured the mood in 1969.


I haven't heard that song in ages... and I had no idea that they made a movie (?!?) out of it.

... very interesting times we live in!
Actually, the interesting times were the sixties: the movie was made in 1969.
I've seen the movie several times -- once in a theatre in the mid 70's, and several times on cable... and listening to the song is also something of a Thanksgiving tradition for me. To me, it seems that the film is trying to do a lot more than just portray the song. I think it tries to do a little too much. What I get out of it is a larger story about idealism confronting imperfection and about self-discovery as a journey rather than a goal -- two themes that are very indicative of the sixties -- but it doesn't quite get it across the way that another one of my favorite files, The Graduate, does. There's just too much going on in some places, and there are too many things that aren't explained well enough.

Didn't know that the church is now the Guthrie center. Will have to check it out next time I'm in the Berkshires.

Add a comment:

Ignore this:
Leave this empty:
Name is required. Either email or web are required. Email won't be displayed and I won't spam you. Your web site won't be indexed by search engines.
Don't put anything here:
Leave this empty:
Comment text is Markdown.