Go Ask Alice (1973)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Addiction Drama  |   Run Time - 74 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Modern viewers who turn to Go Ask Alice for campy kicks will be disappointed when they discover a sober-minded TV film dealing tastefully with subject matter too often sensationalized beyond realism. The authenticity of the published diary which provided the basis for Go Ask Alice has often been questioned, but that never hurt its popularity among teens, many of whom ignored its anti-drug message and reveled instead in the gory details of smack orgies and chemical rebellion. Director John Korty takes a non-exploitative approach to the material, managing to make the central character's plight compelling without manipulating the audience through the uglier aspects of the story. Certainly its status as a mainstream television broadcast tempered what could be depicted, but the film never stoops to indict anyone for Alice's addiction, painting her dilemma as far more complicated than mere peer pressure or a generation gap. The cast is natural and understated, even when caught in the throes of LSD usage and drug withdrawal. Jamie Smith Jackson is a bit anonymous as Alice, but it's appropriate for a character who is at an age when personality is pliable and easily altered. William Shatner is more reserved than usual as Alice's father (though his moustache doesn't seem to be glued on straight), and Andy Griffith takes a hard-bitten turn in his cameo as a no-nonsense priest. In one of her first roles, Mackenzie Phillips appears briefly as a street urchin with a hunger for dope, a characterization she might have known a bit too well. Go Ask Alice can still be found on video from time to time, though its reputation as a sleazy romp dressed up in freaky hippie duds is exaggerated and its usefulness as anti-drug propaganda is compromised by its dated appearance. It is, however, a well-crafted drama with period ambiance, worth seeing again for nostalgic baby boomers.