In the small town of South Renford, Alice Adams comes from a working class background, although she aspires to be among the upper class. Alice's mother blames her husband for their low social standing, despite his working hard and Alice not blaming him for anything. Regardless, Alice tries to do whatever necessary to put on appearances of wealth and social standing, despite everyone in that class in town knowing who she is, and thus largely ignoring her because of her false airs. First meeting at a society ball, Alice surprisingly catches the eye of Arthur Russell, surprisingly as he purportedly is engaged to débutante Mildred Palmer. As Alice continues to hide her true social standing from Arthur as he courts her, Mrs. Adams pressures Mr. Adams into doing something he doesn't want to do in an effort truly to become part of the business class, that measure which entails sinking all his money into a business venture. Beyond the time when Arthur finds out the true nature behind Alice's ...Written by
Have you ever picked up what you thought was a glass of water, but when you took a long sip you ended up with a mouthful of Sprite? A surprising feeling, but then you have to figure out if it's pleasant or not. I felt similarly about my experience watching "Alice Adams", George Stevens' 1935 film starring Katherine Hepburn as the title character. Expecting a wily romantic comedy, possibly a precursor to Hepburn's screwball comedies, I instead witnessed a beautiful, touching and sad film about rejection and romance in small-town America.
Alice is the daughter of a bookkeeper who is sick, and therefore temporarily out of work. Even before his unemployment, his job did not provide as much money for his family as many of Alice's contemporaries. This causes Alice to not be accepted in society, and makes it harder to find a boyfriend, though she tries to keep cheerful in front of her family. Unfortunately Mrs. Adams doesn't make things easier, by constantly harping on Mr. Adams to quit his job and be more ambitious. When the Palmers have their annual dance, Alice asks her brother Walter to take her, and there she first sees Arthur Russell MacMurray) a wealthy young man who is practically engaged to Mildred Palmer, probably the richest and most socially prominent young woman in the town. He notices Alice, and after a dance together, finds her a couple of days later and they begin a romance, but it becomes obvious that Alice is not going to be able to put up a façade of wealth and social acceptance for long, as their relationship becomes more serious.
There were so many times that I found myself just aching for Alice during this film. Booth Tarkington is so good at capturing the darker side of small town life without being obvious, that it is understandable that this film could be mistaken for a light romantic comedy, though in reality it was anything but. Alice's low self-esteem, mainly due to society's views on her more than her family's lack of money makes her such a fragile character that she becomes immediately sympathetic, and this is mainly due to Hepburn's performance. This was early in her career, and after seeing many of her later films it is easy to forget just how radiant and luminous she once was. She has always been one of my favorite actresses, but it was generally because of the strength she gave the characters she played throughout the years, not her fragility. "Alice Adams" was an extremely pleasant surprise, and I ended up absolutely loving it. A very solid 8/10.
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