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Alice's House (Unrated) ***

Actress Carla Ribas.
Actress Carla Ribas.

By Rene Rodriguez, The Miami Herald

Alice’s House is actually a crowded Sao Paulo high-rise apartment where Alice (Carla Ribas) suffers the indignities of her adulterous cab-driving husband (Zecarlos Machado), keeps the peace between her three rambunctious sons (Vinicius Zinn, Ricardo Vilaca and Felipe Massuia) and tends after her aging mother (Berta Zemel).

As if all that weren’t enough, Alice also works at a beauty parlor as a manicurist: Just because she lives in a home governed by machista rule doesn’t mean she’s exempt from having to go out and earn her share of the rent. First-time director Chico Teixeira, an accomplished maker of documentaries in Brazil, brings a similar nonfiction feel to this melodramatic milieu, which is kick-started when Alice contemplates having an affair of her own with a former sweetheart.

Unlike Pedro Almódovar’s What Have I Done To Deserve This?, which focused on a similarly harried wife and mother who reached her breaking point, Alice’s House does not leaven its heroine’s plight with dark humor. Nor does it offer any easy escape route.

Sensitively portrayed by Ribas, whose performance earned her the Best Actress prize at the 2007 Miami International Film Festival, Alice is instead an ordinary woman, bound to the rules dictated to her by a chauvinist society and finding respite in the occasional oasis of her own making.

Cast: Carla Ribas, Vinicius Zinn, Ricardo Vilaca, Felipe Massuia, Berta Zemel, Zecarlos Machado

Director: Chico Teixeira

Screenwriters: Chico Teixeira, Julio Pessoa, Sabina Anzuategui, Marcelo Gomes

A FiGa Films release. Running time: 90 minutes. In Portuguese with English subtitles. Vulgar language, sexual situations, adult themes. In Miami-Dade: Cosford Cinema; in Palm Beach: PGA.