With the draft decimating the ranks of the young during the sixties, dodging military service was a national pastime. Arlo Guthrie’s rambling ballad, “The Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” became a how-to tale for the peace-loving counterculture. Penn’s wistful film version retains the folksy simplicity of the original tune while inserting Arlo’s quirky observations as narrator of his own follies. The mother-to-all Alice (Pat Quinn) and her hippie hubby Ray (James Broderick) establish a commune in a converted church in Stockbridge, Massachusetts (the very town where Penn resided, along with Norman Rockwell) where artists and dropouts, folkies, and just plain folks congregate. After a huge Thanksgiving dinner, Arlo (himself) is assigned to dispose of the trash; his subsequent arrest for littering makes this young peacenik unfit for military duty. Using a mostly amateur cast of flower children, Alice’s Restaurant has an incense-tinged naturalism that wafts with authenticity. And at its center is not Arlo but Alice herself, desirable, compassionate, and tragic as she watches this beautiful, generational moment disappear. —Steve Seid
Once the vanguard of 1960s-1970s Hollywood New Wave, director Arthur Penn saw his cinematic fortunes decline with the mid-‘70s rise of more straightforward blockbuster entertainment. Even as he struggled through the ’80s and ’90s, however, Penn’s legacy was assured by such films as Little Big Man (1970), Night Moves (1975), and the pivotal masterwork Bonnie and Clyde (1967).
Born in Philadelphia, Penn was trained to follow in his father’s footsteps as a watchmaker, but by high school, he knew he preferred theater. While stationed at Fort Jackson, SC, during World War II, Penn formed a small drama circle with his fellow infantrymen, and continued his education as an actor at school in North Carolina and Italy after the war. Though Penn acted in Joshua Logan’s theater company and studied with Michael Chekhov at the Actors Studio’s Los Angeles branch, he opted for a career behind the scenes when he got a job at NBC TV in 1951. By 1953, Penn was writing and… read more
An incredible film, and to reply to those of you who consider it "dated" and "messy", wasn't that period messy and confusing in itself? From what I read and saw about it, it seemed to be that way for the people. I wasn't so much into Arthur Penn until watching this film, but now I want to see everything he directed. I think "Alice's Restaurant" is one of the best films of the era and would deserve more praise.
An unsung gem of a picture that stands as a testament to the time it was made in. Penn, Guthrie and Herndon took Guthrie's sixteen minute mini opera of a folksong and turned it into a somewhat clever examination of the times and morales of the late sixties. In the end aimless and somewhat pointless but a lot of fun getting there. Guthrie a quite endearing presenceand a great performance by Patricia Quinn as den mom.
Never seen a movie so dated; a fun watch but seriously unfocused. Dede Allen to the rescue!!! Arlo's performance is suprisingly solid. Featuring on-screen performances by Pete Seeger and Joni Mitchell!!!