What would you do if you woke up and realized your reality has slightly shifted?
Alice (Keke Palmer) spends her days enslaved on a rural Georgia plantation restlessly yearning for freedom. After a violent clash with plantation owner Paul (Jonny Lee Miller), Alice flees through the neighboring woods and stumbles onto the unfamiliar sight of a highway, soon discovering that the year is actually 1973. Rescued on the roadside by a disillusioned Black activist named Frank (Common), Alice uncovers the lies that have kept her enslaved and the promise of Black liberation.
In her debut feature, writer-director Krystin Ver Linden spins a fable that is equal parts Southern Gothic and Blaxploitation. Inspired by true accounts of Black Americans who were kept in peonage for more than 100 years after the end of slavery, Alice mixes historical fact and fiction as Ver Linden traces Alice’s breathless journey down the rabbit hole and into the turbulent wonderland of the post–Civil Rights South.
The best thing about this film is the performance of Keke Palmer, whose range is off the charts giving me young Angela Bassett vibes while invoking her inner Pam Grier. The 70’s soundtrack is an entertaining throwback, but as much as I appreciate what the filmmaker was trying to convey, I’m done and had my fill of slavery trauma porn. Antebellum tried this same tale a few years back and failed miserably. Some would blame it on the pandemic and others are simply fed up. There are so many more rich stories to tell about Black people that don’t regale or romanticize slavery, the disrespect of Black women and their bodies or the need to watch any human being roped, gagged or chained up.
Keke Palmer is enormously gifted and she deserves better than an Alice in Wonderland running from the plantation life as her own emancipation from a way of life that has never served any of us well to begin with.
Having said that judge for yourself as Roadside Productions releases ‘Alice’ to the masses in theaters on March 18th.