alice's odyssey [l’odyssée d’alice tremblay] (2002)


director: denise filiatrault

sophie lorain, martin drainville, pierette robitaille

When a film’s ambitions overreach its budget, there’s a temptation to squint hard and imagine what the filmmaker would have done with a few million more dollars. Denise Filiatrault’s Alice’s Odyssey, an adult take on fairy tales, might have looked a bit slicker with better sets, and costumes that didn’t look like community theatre discards, but in the end it’s hard to imagine that it would have been a substantially different film.

Quebec TV star Sophie Lorain - daughter of director Filiatrault - stars as Alice Tremblay, a single mother working at an east-end Montreal refinery, who falls into the world of her daughter’s fairy tales one night and ends up in a world of prince charmings, fairy godmothers and wicked witches that evolved past “happily ever after”. Sharp eyes will catch 80s CanCon pop star Mitsou as a gartered-and-stockinged Little Red Riding Hood happy to fall into the clutches of a lascivious wolf. Elsewhere, Snow White has decided that size doesn’t count, and moved back in with the Seven Dwarves, and Prince Charming is a decadent lout somewhere between Billy Idol and an Elvis impersonator.

It’s a risque cabaret version of our beloved fairy tales, and hardly original - the benchmark take on this sort of thing having been done fifteen years ago, with Neil Jordan’s lush In The Company of Wolves. Filiatrault strives to make it bawdy and naughty, but somehow the dominant tone is a cross between enthusiastic dinner theatre and a Rocky Horror midnight showing, and definitely a product of mainstream “showbiz” tastes in Quebec, where variety shows and vaudeville-flecked comedy still has an audience.

Lorain is charming as Alice though, mystifyingly, the story never ventures a take on her namesake, the Lewis Carroll heroine, but that might have been one children’s story more than the film could afford. While no one in the cast seems embarassed by the goings-on, and deliver the film’s kitschy Quebecois pop numbers with gusto, there’s an inescapable feeling that Alice’s Odyssey loses something on the road from Montreal past Belleville, Kingston and Cobourg.