Alice (15) |Close-Up Film Review

Dir: Josephine Mackerras, France/ Australia, 2019, 103 mins.

Cast: Emilie Piponnier, Martin Swabey, Chloe Boreham, Jules Milo Levy Mackerras

Review by Carlie Newman

A little like the 1967 film Belle De Jour, Alice is another film about the ‘high’ end of prostitution. Alice (Emilie Piponnier) has a happy and easy life with her husband, Francois (Martin Swabey) in their pleasant apartment in Paris. That is until suddenly her credit cards are declined, and Francois disappears.

Alice runs around discovering what has happened. The news is very bad: they are bankrupt, and she is very likely to lose her home, bought with her inheritance money. Discovering that her husband has spent all their money and her inheritance on his addiction to boutique sex workers, Alice decides that this high-class sex work is something that she can do and will bring in enough money to pay off the family’s debts and save her home.

She becomes very friendly with one of the escorts, Lisa (Chloe Boreham), who tutors her in the way to act and make a lot of money. “Think of yourself as a nurse!” Chloe advises as she recommends beginning each session with a massage. Feeling empowered, Alice enters this new world. She gets no help at all from her mother who tells her to stick with her husband in order to keep the family together. Francois pleads with her to return to him and promisse to reform. She is scared that he will gain custody of their child as everyone informs her that she will be considered a bad mother because of her new chosen lifestyle.

The bad side of prostitution is not shown here and the sex that is on display is quite sanitised. Alice sees her clients in good hotels or attractive apartments and is never really threatened at all. The director has a good story which is well put across by the lovely Emilie Piponnier who manages to look attractive in all circumstances. We see through her the conflict of a budding feminist struggling to keep her child looked after while she carves out a new working life for herself.

Piponnier is backed up by sturdy characterisations from Chloe Boreham as Alice’s new friend and Martin Swabey as the husband who realises that his wife is a person in her own right. A lovely performance, too, from little Jules Milo Levy (the director’s own son) as Alice and Francois’ child.

Almost a fine film, just a bit too clean with a rather too easy conclusion.