Film & TV

Film Review: ‘Alice, Darling’: The Very Talented Anna Kendrick Can’t Save It

BY Mark Jackson TIMEJanuary 28, 2023 PRINT

Alice (Anna Kendrick) has what appears to be a perfect relationship with up-and-coming British artist, Simon (Charlie Carrick). They live in Manhattan. Their apparently glamorous life is full of smiles and public displays of affection from both parties, but the reality is, Alice is trapped in an emotionally, psychologically abusive relationship.

Classic narcissist Simon is not physically abusive, but constantly undercuts Alice’s self-esteem, trying to convince her that any time spent with her friends is disrespectful, unsupportive, and hurtful to him. It’s immediately clear it’s going to take an intervention by Alice’s friends to get her to confront her psychological deterioration.

man and woman with champagne in ALICE, DARLING
Alice (Anna Kendrick) with up-and-coming British artist boyfriend, Simon (Charlie Carrick), in “Alice, Darling.” (Lionsgate)

This particular type of abusive, controlling relationship is a very real and serious problem. Emotional and psychological abuse is different from physical abuse in that the scars are not outward, but the stress and trauma can actually stick around longer.

However, the makers of “Alice, Darling” (director Mary Nighy is British actor Bill Nighy’s daughter, and he’s the nutty rock star in the opening scene of “Love, Actually”) seem to think that by merely acknowledging the situation, it will lead to some riveting drama. Unfortunately, one glance at the Rotten Tomatoes critics-audience skew of 83 percent to 50 percent will tell you that the film seriously violates the number one rule of show business: Never be boring.

Billed as a “psychological thriller,” it contains minimal drama and no real thrills. It would like some points for simply stating an issue: Emotional/psychological abuse is a terrible thing! That won’t cut it in terms of the laws that govern good theater and cinema. Audiences may not intellectually know that dramatic tension is the key to everything, but when it goes missing, they will let it be known on Rotten Tomatoes.

woman in chair in ALICE, DARLING
Alice (Anna Kendrick) worrying, in “Alice, Darling.” (Lionsgate)

What You See

Kendrick does an admirable job with the lackluster script and misguided direction. She flinches at the controlling text-message alerts that roll in from Simon ad nauseam; she squirrels herself away in restaurant bathroom stalls to take the requested cleavage-selfies; she sits on the toilet and pulls her hair out; she hyperventilates; she makes sure never to be seen by Simon without her eyeliner.

When Alice lets herself reluctantly get talked into going away for a week with old friends Tess (Kaniehtiio Horn) and Sophie (Wunmi Mosaku) for Tess’ birthday, she lies to Simon about it. She goes along for the ride, but comes off as strange to her friends; withdrawn, distant, and, in classic fashion—due to Simon’s text-badgering—announcing she’s cutting out early. The deception cuts both ways, though; as mentioned, Sophie and Tess have absconded with Alice not just to strengthen their bonds but to stage an intervention.

There’s a bit of an overly obvious, adjacent storyline that suggests what fate could be awaiting Alice: The town they’re staying in has a full-scale, law enforcement-plus-concerned-citizens missing-person search happening for a young girl who’s disappeared.

woman looking out window in ALICE, DARLING
Alice (Anna Kendrick) worrying some more, in “Alice, Darling.” (Lionsgate)

What You Get

As viewers, we’re sympathetic to Alice but aren’t offered much understanding about what attracted her to Simon in the first place, or shown her gradual succumbing to his subtle abuse.

Likewise, other than that, he’s a perfectionist prima donna artist agonizing about his career; we don’t learn how that mindset came about. The result is a lot of talk without a lot of understanding. It distances us from Alice’s dilemma. It may very well be true to life in terms of how the friends and family of someone in Alice’s situation would experience the situation, but dramatically speaking, this is not the way to make a compelling movie.

3 women in ALICE, DARLING
Sophie (Wunmi Mosaku), Alice (Anna Kendrick), and Tess (Kaniehtiio Horn) confronting Alice’s stalker boyfriend, with an axe, in “Alice, Darling.” (Lionsgate)

Kendrick (one of my personal favorite actresses) does all she can to anchor Alice in realistic terms, but has very little to work with. Probably seeing Alice before she met Simon would have made the changes in her behavior more dramatic.

When Simon unexpectedly (but highly predictably) shows up, the sudden, too-little-too-late dramatic brush fire that occurs is like getting an oxygen mask to the face after suffocating for an hour and a half, and by that time, you’re feeling like, “Don’t revive me, just let me die in peace.”

Movie poster for ALICE, DARLING
Movie poster for “Alice, Darling”

‘Alice, Darling’
Director: Mary Nighy
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Charlie Carrick, Kaniehtiio Horn, Wunmi Mosaku
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Release Date: Dec. 30, 2022
Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars

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Mark Jackson
Film Critic
Mark Jackson is the senior film critic for The Epoch Times. Mark has 20 years' experience as a professional New York actor, classical theater training, and a BA in philosophy. He recently narrated the Epoch Times audiobook “How the Specter of Communism is Ruling Our World,” and has a Rotten Tomatoes author page.
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