Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Alice’s Restaurant


The first time you hear it, it’s pretty funny. The second time you might chuckle here and there. By the third time you are mighty tired of hearing about those “twenty-seven 8 x 10 colored glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explainin’ what each one was.” By the fourth time, you’re sprinting across the room to change the radio station before Arlo can hardly get started.

Arthur Penn made this inconsequential marshmallow of a movie between the revolutionary Bonnie and Clyde and the brilliant Little Big Man. It seems to me it was dated almost before the letters came down from the marquee. And it hasn’t held up well, particularly if you know a little about it. The eponymous Alice hated it, and it’s easy to see why. She comes off as a bit of a slut. She maintains she never fucked Arlo, and I believe her. As for the rest of the story, aside from the actual tale of the Thanksgiving dinner, the disposal of the trash, Arlo’s arrest for littering and subsequent classification as unfit to die for Lyndon Johnson, it’s all made up to make the counterculture look groovy. All it makes them look now is self-indulgent. The best thing about this movie is that you only have to hear “Alice’s Restaurant” one time, and it’s spread out over two hours. Even the guest appearance of Pete Seeger singing a few songs with Arlo at Woody’s bedside only serves to remind me of how truly silly some folk music was.

In recent years Arlo has come out as a Libertarian Republican. He likes Ron Paul, or is it Rand? Who can tell? I can’t help thinking how sad Woody would be if he could hear that.