Monday, July 8, 2024

Alice & Jack: Pointless and Stupid

Alice & Jack was a highly promoted series on PBS Masterpiece earlier this year. Six episodes, I recorded all the episodes and finally watched them months later. I was fascinated by the first episode; some reviews have said this show was a waste of time - I thought they must be wrong. By the time I finished the series, those reviews turned out to be correct. I have a feeling this show was pitched as "Normal People for Adults" but it has none of the nuance, nor any sensuality.

Alice and Jack meet on a Tinder-like date (in 2007, before it existed) and have a one night tryst. I can see why Alice likes Jack (Domhnall Gleeson) but I can't figure out why he's so crazy about her. Alice is rude and abrupt, though she softens up later on. There's a trauma from her childhood, touched upon briefly in one episode, to explain her behavior, but it all seems shallow. Everything seems like a plot device rather than an exploration of character. Andrea Riseborough portrays Alice as best she can, eyes welling up with tears at any given moment. At one point they haven't seen each other for two years, then Alice sends Jack an invitation to her wedding. Jack is pissed - but TWO YEARS have passed - Jack has a PhD and is a scientist, why wouldn't he assume she's moved on? Why didn't Jack move on? It's ridiculous. Whenever one of them appears to be in a good relationship with someone else, they come back together and it blows up everything. Again, it's unexplained, there's hardly any sex involved (not looking for graphic sexual content, but often people lose their heads over someone they are highly attracted to), and Jack does one dumb thing after another. 

Years and years pass, Jack is still single - a highly educated and successful person with no problems other than he thinks of Alice too much. He starts off dates by telling women he's hung up on Alice. Then towards the end, when Alice has stage 4 cancer, Jack has an aortic aneurysm - the doctor explains that he could die of an aortic dissection unless he reduces his stress level. I could predict that he would die very close to Alice's death - and that's what happened. It's supposed to be poetic but I see the writer's plot machinations and it just seems stupid. 

The other problem is this show is two episodes too long. The fifth episode is mostly about the two of them wandering around London discussing their history. The sixth episode has Alice pass away early, with flashbacks to scenes we've already watched in the previous five episodes, just padding it out to meet the running time. I don't know why I stuck with it other than I like Domhnall Gleeson, but he was wasted here.

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