HBO // 2008 // 640 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Josh Rode (Retired) // August 11th, 2011
"I'm almost where I want to be. When I get there, I'll bring everyone close to me again." -- Alice
Alice was among the first Portuguese language shows aired by HBO Latino for the large Brazilian population. Despite what you may have heard, this is not a Brazilian Sex and the City, nor is it about Sao Paulo native Alice Braga.
Alice Carvalho Zanetti is a small town girl who loathes the busy streets of Sau Paulo, but when forced to go to the city to attend her estranged father's funeral, she finds herself sucked into its throbbing energy. In over her head, Alice must use every tool at her disposal not only to stay afloat, but to make her own way in a world of money, drugs, and sex.
* "Through the Rabbit Hole" -- Alice discovers her father jumped off a ledge and flies to Sau Paulo to attend his funeral. Getting lost, she calls an acquaintance for help and is introduced to Sao Paulo's party scene.
* "Alice's Treasure" -- Alice uses the contacts she met at the party to obtain an internship at a celebrity concierge service.
* "The Return of Elvira Ciprianni" -- Alice gets a big break when she is chosen to be aging superstar Elvira Ciprianni's personal concierge.
* "In the Garden of Lost Flowers" -- Alice is romanced by a married billionaire.
* "Dona Sumiko's Goldfish" -- In another big assignment, Alice is trusted to get a dress altered in time for a fashion show.
* "The Dark Side of the Mirror" -- Alice and Nick are carjacked on the way to work.
* "Wonderland" -- The carjacking scare forces Alice re-evaluate her life, and she decides to take charge. First step: renovate a warehouse her father left her and turn it into a club.
* "Alice's War" -- A transit strike threatens to destroy Alice's plans before they even start.
* "Searching for Gold" -- Alice uses her position in the company to land a major shindig for her new club.
* "In Alice's City" -- Alice's grandmother and brother visit, but she doesn't have as much time to spend with them as she'd like.
* "In the Rush" -- Alice networks at a dinner party, while her grandmother and brother have a smaller family gathering.
* "Free Falling" -- Alice's partying leads to a late night, a broken promise, and a ruined birthday party.
* "Highly Sensitive" -- Alice receives a tip that her mother's death may not have happened the way she thought, and returns to Palmas to investigate.
This release is referred to Alice: Season One. Although there is a two-part HBO On Demand special that picks up one year after these events, a full second season was never produced. Fortunately, the creative team made sure their one and only season concluded without any major loose ends, which isn't to say there aren't any. All of the secondary characters receive one plotline they carry throughout the season; some get closure but many do not. Even Alice's major story only gets a spit-shine at the end, rather than the in-depth catharsis it really needs. In fact, the final episode brings up more questions than it provide answers. My guess is that particular storyline was meant to be a major part of Season Two, so they had to choose between sticking it in somewhere or losing it.
Alice's story is one of hope, struggle, and finding oneself, as she is thrown into the deep end of the city and forced to swim. The last part of this cliché -- being surrounded by sharks -- does not happen. Instead, she gets really lucky and meets just the right people, to point her in the just right direction, and receive the support she needs to see everything through. Seriously, most of these folks are veritable saints; even when she's pushing them away or ignoring them, they stick with her. I wish I had friends as good as these. The ones who aren't saints are indifferent at worst; she never meets anyone who wishes her harm, even when she's wandering the crime-ridden streets at two in the morning. Hell, even the carjackers drive her to the hospital.
Andréia Horta (Cordel Encantado) is fabulous as the title character. She has a really long character arc and nails every minute of it. Through her journey, Andréia conveys every emotion imaginable -- lost and naïve girl; fumbling wannabe; confident woman; driven maven; out of control power broker; broken shell; and humbled friend. The last two aren't given the time they're due, thanks to the impending finish.
Most of the other characters are just as well-written and acted. Nick (Vinicius Zinn, Alice's House), Alice's first new friend in Sao Paulo, tries to hit on her, then tries to help her, then tries to ignore her. Alas, he's not particularly successful in any category, but that's due to Alice's foibles and not his own. Dani (Luka Omoto) and Marcella (Gabrielle Lopez) are both engaging, although the Vicky Cristina Barcelona threesome thing between them and the moody Teo (Juliano Cazarre, Assalto ao Banco Central) feels contrived.
Regina Braga (Ti Ti Ti) is good as Aunt Luli, at least in her scenes with Alice. Her relationship arc with Dora (Denise Weinberg, Time of Fear) never quite jells because there is little natural chemistry between the actresses. The other standout is Daniela Piepszyk (Tudo Novo de Novo). I don't usually care for child actors, but she is 100% convincing and charming as Celia, Alice's half-sister.
The reason for the comparison with Sex and the City is that the story takes place in an urban setting and there is plenty of sex and nudity for both genders, although with a bit of a misogynistic bent. The men are always on top and the women who attend the rampant parties are generally portrayed as little more than strippers or high class hookers. There also isn't much imagination put into the choreography; every man uses the exact same move, and all of the sex scenes are quite short.
Presented in a rather disappointing 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, the visuals suffer heavy pixilation, even though color palette is deep and vivid, and the show does a great job of capturing Sau Paulo's glory and ugliness. The Dolby 5.1 audio is unsurprisingly front-heavy, with the surrounds only carrying music and the occasional ambient street noise. The subwoofer shows up from time to time, especially during the party scenes, but isn't utilized to its potential.
Another disappointment is the lack of extras. How about a tour of the largest city in South America?
Alice: Season One is a deep, dark character study of a woman forced to grow up or go home. The story has some minor plot holes and its lack of extras is a black eye, but still stands as an excellent show worthy of your time.
Review content copyright © 2011 Josh Rode; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 640 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site