Alice review – sex-worker drama fails to sell its preposterous premise | Film

This debut feature from Australian director Josephine Mackerras was a success at last year’s SXSW festival; it is well acted and all hangs together in plot terms. But its depiction of high-end sex work is glib and naive.

The setting is Paris and Emilie Piponnier plays Alice, the young stay-at-home mother of a little boy; her husband François (Martin Swabey) is a handsome and successful university academic. Everything looks good for the picture-perfect family until one day Alice’s debit card is declined, her husband vanishes and she discovers she is about to lose her home because François has blown all their money on his prostitute addiction. How can she feed her son and fend off the bailiffs? She discovers, in her desperation, that there is only one thing she can do … become a high-end escort herself, with the very agency whose details she discovered among François’s abandoned things.

Piponnier does her level best to sell this frankly preposterous premise with its queasy irony. She is a good actor. But the story is strained, heavily reliant on Alice becoming friendly with a fellow escort who shows her the ropes. We get a selection of five-star hotel-room scenes and meet Alice’s customers – some nice, some weirdos – although there are no genuinely nasty or scary moments when she is in danger. And the movie fudges the issue of men who refuse to wear condoms. The film comes close to fetishising the luxury world of bought sex.

Of course, in the real world, women can and do make a good living as escorts, without the tragic end that male moralists earnestly imagine for them. But this is contrived and the ending is borderline absurd.

Source: The Guardian

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