That big film shoot grows perilously near in Losing Alice [Apple TV+ review]

By

Writer Sophie, played by Lihi Kornowski, is ready to take whatever she can in Apple TV+ thriller
Writer Sophie is ready to take whatever she can in Losing Alice.
Photo: Apple TV+

On this week’s episode of Apple TV+’s behind-the-scenes filmmaking drama Losing Alice, rehearsals have begun, locations are found, and parts are cast. Now all that remains is for the relationship between writer, director and star not to devolve into shrieking sexual hysterics.

Easier said than done.

Losing Alice review: ‘The Paranoia’

You’ve waited four episodes for it, but they’re finally starting proper production on Alice and Sophie’s and movie this week. Director Alice (played by Ayelet Zurer) is now over the hump of being tortured and strung along by her horny and troublesome protege. She’s climbed into the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” phase of their courtship.

Alice has gone back in Sophie (Lihi Kornowski)’s Instagram feed to find someone named Nomy, who apparently meant a great deal to the writer back in the day. And what better way to show her dominance on set than to show up with Sophie’s old flame? That ought to unseat the young upstart and tip the scales a little in Alice’s favor.

Of course, things become complicated almost immediately. Alice is losing her grip, increasingly alienating her family as she becomes single-mindedly fixated on Sophie.

She suspects David (Gal Toren) is sleeping with Sophie. She doesn’t trust Sophie at all. And it looks like Nomy, the girl Alice hoped would be her ace in the hole in getting one over on Sophie, disappeared without a trace.

Alice is about to go investigate this when she gets a troubling message from Sophie. Something very bad has happened…

I didn’t see that coming

Yossi Marshek plays Tamir in Losing Alice.
Yossi Marshek plays Tamir in Losing Alice.
Photo: Apple TV+

Admittedly, Losing Alice has a way of turning the river. Just as you start to get bored and wonder why this show is eight episodes long and not a 90-minute movie, its creators introduce some new piece of intrigue. Now, the fun new kinks in the story — and the clues to the full size and scope of the conspiracy — don’t exactly make up for the fact that they’re between entirely too schematic scenes of Alice yelling at her daughter. But at least they break up the monotony.

Alice just isn’t that interesting a character. She’s designed that way, in fact, because somebody interesting would have taken one look at the desperately needy and sex-obsessed Sophie and said, “Yeah, I don’t need this kinda trouble in my life.”

So Alice, defined on the one hand by writer’s block and on the other by a fraying family life, must remain if not passive then constantly a step behind her foil. Sophie needs to always keep Alice on the hook, or the show ends.

At any point, Alice could simply say, “I’d rather keep my movie and my family than humor the suspected murderer who wrote this very dull erotic thriller I’m directing.” But we all know she won’t do that.

You don’t Nomy

I can’t help but feel like there just isn’t going to be anything like a satisfying answer to this continuously sprawling mystery. It’s also tough to get excited for the next wrinkle, the next new character who’s going to tell Alice what she already knows beyond a shadow of a doubt: Sophie is bad news and she’s going to keep ruining Alice’s life because that’s her idea of fun.

There’s nothing you can do with a character like that in fiction, though movies and TV can’t get enough of them. The hot hell-raiser, the woman so broken she’d kill to have fun … they wind up in movies because screenwriters find them interesting.

Maybe I’m alone in this, but I don’t find a character like Sophie interesting, I find her enormously stressful. Dragging out her misadventures across a whole miniseries is no way to make up for the fact that you’ve based a show around someone you wouldn’t ever want to befriend, read about or, frankly, watch a movie about.

With just three episodes of Losing Alice remaining, there’s a lot left to justify.

Losing Alice on Apple TV+

New episodes of Losing Alice arrive on Apple TV+ each Friday.

Rated: TV-MA

Watch on: Apple TV+

Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the director of 25 feature films, and the author of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.