By Kevin Muller
Whenever you think of Anna Kendrick, the words energetic and joyful come to mind. Kendrick has made a career out of playing relatable characters with a sharp wit. In real life, she also projects being a ray of sunshine during countless television appearances. As you can assume, as with any profession, the desire to step out of her comfort zone has probably crossed her mind. Alice Darling is the Oscar nominee’s dive into a serious drama. There are no cups, trolls, or acapella, just pure and genuine emotion. How does she do?
Alice is on vacation with her friends at a lake house. Though she tries to have fun and be in the moment, a certain dread resides within her. Her boyfriend, Simon, lingers in her mind, as she suffers from severe codependency issues. No, he doesn’t hit her, but emotionally abuses her through belittlement and constant gaslighting. Despite constant talks, that develop into arguments, her friends Tess and Sophie are both frustrated and nervous for Alice well-being.
Director Mary Nighy, daughter of Bill, is a competent director, but also lacks flavor to make this feel more than what meets the eye. There aren’t many surprises along the way, but it is a genuine story about the power of friendship. Kaniethtioo Horn and Wummani Mosaku share a solid sisterhood with Kendrick. Their friendship is the film’s strongest aspect. The highs of it, with the girls singing karaoke, and the lows, which is most of the film, are quite convincing. What is fantastic about the latter is that the conflicts feel mean, raw, and realistic. The three actresses get extremely catty at points, and it all feels real. As it is with anyone you love, the words uttered by them are usually the sharpest and cut the deepest.
Kendrick does an admirable job at projecting the madness that resides in Alice’s head. The film brings the nervous disorder of Trichotillomania into light. The disorder has a person calm their nerves through the pulling out their hair. Clumps of her hair drop to the floor many times in the film when she is under stress. It is a nice detail that many movies don’t address. Kendrick has been very open with her issues with anxiety. In her 2016 autobiography ‘Scrappy Little Nobody,” she talks about, despite her success, her nerves have gotten the best of her. In her 2009 film Up in the Air, she used that nervous energy to turn in a performance that got her first Oscar nomination. On top of feeling the intensity of that character’s emotions, she used it as a comedic weapon to boot. In this film, there is no humor with the performance, just constant woe.
Nighy may have been eager to fill this film with more substance, since Alice becomes infatuated with a missing person case that is happening in the town where they are staying. The aim of the subplot is to show Alice the dark possibility of staying with Simon. Instead, the entirety of it feels tacked on, or that it belongs in any other film. Alice, Darling showcases both an admirable start for Nighy as a director, and Kendrick challenging herself with deeper roles. If only the film was a bit deeper.
I am giving Alice, Darling a 2.5 out of 5 Hairpieces!