“You Are The Boss”: ‘Alice’ is a thought-provoking look into the world of high-end escorts

Posted by
| Comments Off on “You Are The Boss”: ‘Alice’ is a thought-provoking look into the world of high-end escorts

Alice is now playing at MDC’s Tower Theater Miami Virtual Theater. Watch on iOS, Android, Apple TV, Roku, and Chromecast. For tickets, click here.

The prostitution genre has long held a certain allure for filmmakers. Belle de Jour (1967), The Girlfriend Experience (2009), and Young & Beautiful (Miami Film Festival 2013) all deal with beautiful women who – despite their youth and inherent privilege – find themselves living a double life as high-end call girls. Think trench coats, stilettos, and luxury hotels. Alice, directed by Josephine Mackerras, is a welcome addition to the genre: a sexy, bold, and thought-provoking voyage into the world’s oldest profession.

Alice (Emilie Piponnier) is a young Parisian mother whose charmed life is turned upside down when her husband suddenly disappears with their life savings. By chance, she stumbles upon the phone number of a high-end escort service that caters to wealthy clients, and an opportunity presents itself. She soon meets Lisa (Chloe Boreham), a fellow escort who quickly becomes a trusted friend and confidante. She teaches Alice the tricks of the trade: always get the money upfront, slip on some sexy lingerie, offer him a massage to get things going, and bring your own condoms. And most importantly: you are the boss.

At turns comical and dramatic, Alice boasts a distinctly female point of view thanks to Mackerras’ tight writing and direction. This is a work that is unafraid to jump between tones, and unafraid to wholly embrace its lead character’s actions. In the beginning, Alice tells Lisa that she’s surprised she doesn’t feel any different; she doesn’t feel ashamed or degraded by what she’s engaging in. Lisa puts things in perspective for her: “If you’re in love, having sex may be the best experience of your life. If you’re raped, maybe it’s the worst. But in our case, things are under our control. The exchange is fair.”

In the third act, the film’s sensuality is swapped for social commentary, a move that makes the film more interesting and complex than the average prostitution drama. Layers are revealed, and gender bias is brought front and center. As questions of child custody get underway, Mackerras shifts her lens to the way society looks down on sex workers. Alice’s husband amassed his debt through an overzealous use of the very same escort service Alice works for, yet he’s disgusted by her actions, deeming her an unfit mother. We fear the court will see things the very same way.

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival, Alice is a riveting reminder of the high standards women are held to. Perhaps society isn’t so fearful of a woman who exchanges sex for money; they’re scared of the woman who sells sex for money…and likes it.

Alice is now playing at MDC’s Tower Theater Miami Virtual Theater. Watch on iOS, Android, Apple TV, Roku, and Chromecast. For tickets, click here.

Lauren Cohen

Lauren Cohen is the Miami Film Festival's associate director of programming. She also runs the Festival’s membership level for young professionals, CineClub. Learn more about Lauren on Programmers.