Losing Alice review: Apple's erotic thriller is too timid to bare it all
- Losing Alice review: Despite a couple of strong performances by Ayelet Zurer and Lihi Kornowski, Apple's Israeli series can't make the most of its promising premise.
Creator - Sigal Avin
Cast - Ayelet Zurer, Lihi Kornowski, Gal Toren
A frazzled film director descends into the rabbit hole in Losing Alice, a psychosexual noir drama on Apple TV+. It’s the streamer’s second Israeli acquisition, after the quietly effective spy series, Tehran.
Ayelet Zurer stars as Alice, who after a chance encounter with a young screenwriter named Sophie, becomes obsessed with the idea of directing a film based on her script. As described by Sophie, the story sounds equal parts Basic Instinct and Body Heat.
Watch the Losing Alice trailer here
But Alice hasn’t made a film in years. She’s been stuck in a creative rut, living a life of domesticity while her movie star husband travels around the world. In an early scene, a giggling store clerk shamelessly enters a changing room in which David — that’s Alice’s husband, played by Gal Toren — is trying on some clothes. That’s the sort of allure that he has.
Nothing in Losing Alice, however, is more seductive than Sophie and her script. Virtually everyone who lays hands on it is spellbound. Unsurprisingly, after a series of bizarre developments, both Alice and David sign on -- him as a leading man trying something out-of-the-box, and her as the one-hit-wonder looking to make a comeback.
But things begin to get out of hand when Sophie — a classic femme fatale if there ever was one — inserts herself into the couple’s personal lives, and then, into the film itself. She contrives a series of circumstances, ranging from moderately unsettling to objectively unhinged, that ultimately lead to her being cast opposite David.
The entire show operates in her orbit as Sophie makes the world go round. Played by Lihi Kornowski, she’s an enigmatic creature, capable of being coquettish in one moment and positively carnivorous in the next. Her enticing girl-next-door vibe erodes over the show’s eight episodes, as Sophie evolves into someone more sinister.
Losing Alice has style to spare — creator-director Sigal Avin films in cinematic widescreen, lending the series the unmistakable look of something classier than what it really is — but far too often, Alice’s motivations are too murky to understand. Is she in it for the fame? Doesn’t look like it. Has she developed feelings for Sophie? It’s possible. Or, more abstractly, has she become completely overcome by a desire to tell a story?
That last bit is the most interesting idea of the lot, and besides an offhand mention towards the very end of the series, it isn’t really explored. Losing Alice is, ultimately, about boredom, and the lengths people can go to to quell it.
In every episode, it seems as if Alice uncovers something about Sophie’s past that would send a normal person running for the hills. But she surges on, as her marriage and mental health crumble before everyone’s eyes.
The tension explodes in episode seven, which is the first time we see the film actually being shot. Scheduled for the day is the scene at the heart of Sophie’s story, in which the unlikely couple at its centre finally give in to temptation. It’s an excellent episode. Very little is said, but as Alice directs the rather graphic scene involving her husband and the young starlet who’s destroyed her life, she realises that she has been ensnared in a web of envy.
Life begins imitating art as Avin tips her hat to classics of the genre such as Black Swan and Mulholland Drive. But Losing Alice, for one reason or another, isn’t as bold as its premise. Far too often, it feels as if Avin is pulling her punches or, at least, being forced to by the invisible hand of morality.
Stories such as this beg for a brave telling. Instead of burrowing deeper, Losing Alice appears to be more preoccupied with climbing its way back into the outside world.
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The author tweets @RohanNaahar