I'm Thankful right now that I actually get the opportunity to pan something. Since I can usually find something in a movie to at least talk about, I worry that I come across as liking everything I see. I don't, of course, like all movies, but rarely do I dislike anything as much as I do Alice's Restaurant, which I saw for the first time Wednesday Night.
I actually love the song, which is based on real events. Arlo Guthrie's “anti-Massacree” message is a Thanksgiving tradition, especially in war years such as these. However, if it is homemade apple sauce--organic and fresh and perfectly cinnamon-spiced--then the movie is cranberry sauce, sloughing from the can with a sickening noise, jiggling and ridged.
The conventions of cinematic pacing were a little different when Restaurant was made back in 1969. Perhaps I am being biased in saying that I like it better now. Because of the pace of the action, it is hard to summarize what happen, because it feels like it wasn't much. An unreasonably beautiful and young Arlo Guthrie gets kicked out of college for following the sound of his own keyboardist. Undeterred, he climbs in his VW microbus (no, really) and takes up with his friends Ray and Alice, who have bought a deconsecrated church in which to live. Alice opens a restaurant nearby as well, the church becomes a shelter for a number of their counterculture friends
Romantic strife between the couple causes Ray to invite scores of their friends to Thanksgiving, so that Alice has to come back and cook. The dinner becomes an ill-fated trip to the dump the same day, and the rest is history. In the end, Arlo experiences losses in both his chosen and blood families. The movie concludes with a bittersweet (okay, mostly bitter) wedding for Ray and Alice.
If there was one thing I found interesting about the movie, it was a glimpse into the past. Arlo and his friends could be described as hippies, but there was also a healthy dose of “folkie”. Perhaps it's even vice-versa, but as we saw in the movie, the distinction was lost on the mainstream culture. Police power could be used to enforce social norms, and sticking someone on a bus out of town was considered a legitimate police activity. The group I watched with included some modern-day, self-described hippies my age; along with me, they cringed at how much was thrown away after the feast. We prefer to compost and recycle as much as possible.
The end of the movie left me so confused that I had to ask my host to explain it. She said that the community depicted was a dystopia...nothing ever changed, and none of their grand plans would ever manifest because no one had their personal shit together. Bleak, huh? No wonder people call this flick depressing.
My favorite part of the movie was my favorite part of the song...with the Army shrink. Ah, you know know what? Just listen for yourself. Arlo tells it better, anyway.