Losing Alice crawls toward a predictable conclusion [Apple TV+ review]

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Ayelet Zurer in Losing Alice
Ayelet Zurer plays Alice, and the audience is losing its patience.
Photo: Apple TV+

On this week’s episode of Losing Alice, the Apple TV+ limited series about a director matching wits with a hot young screenwriter, the titular filmmaker has a potential murderer on her hands. With her movie due to shoot any second, can Alice do the right thing and keep her job?

The bodies are piling up, and Alice is losing control of her star, her marriage, her movie and her life, just as the title implies. If only it were more exciting to watch.

Losing Alice review: ‘The Bad Reader’

Alice (played by Ayelet Zurer) has found the mysteriously missing Nomi’s mother, and she thinks screenwriter Sophie (Lihi Kornowski) murdered Nomi.

Alice can’t prove this, but does she go to the police? Does she shut down her movie? No, she starts trying to manipulate the movie to corner Sophie, hoping to force the screenwriter to admit every bad thing she’s done. That’s one way of doing things, I guess. But of course Alice can’t just stop what she’s doing and investigate the murder she thinks Sophie committed. She has a kid to raise, a marriage to save, and a movie to shoot.

Last week, Sophie called Alice because she was assaulted by a guy, who told Alice he was baited into it. By the time Alice gets home to her husband, David (Gal Toren), he’s heard Sophie’s side of the story. Predictably, he thinks Sophie’s the innocent party — and that’s the last thing Alice wants to hear. She already thinks David and Sophie are conspiring against her. And now she knows there’s more between them.

I bet you’re dying to ask me about that

Sophie (played by Lihi Kornowski) is apparently worth losing it all on Losing Alice.
Sophie (played by Lihi Kornowski) is apparently worth losing it all for.
Photo: Apple TV+

There’s a scene about 15 minutes into this episode, which is titled “The Bad Reader,” that really ought to be a showstopper. It could potentially be Losing Alice’s Basic Instinct moment — the thing that justifies the whole exercise. And in a movie, it might have been. But coming, as it does, in the sixth episode of a TV series, it just doesn’t work.

Spoiler alert: If you don’t want to know how this pathetic scene plays out, stop reading now.

As Alice takes a bath, Sophie shows up and baits her by mentioning every crime she’s been accused of. Sophie gets naked and joins Alice in the tub. Then she strangles Alice and tries to drown her, before Alice gets up and David walks in revealing that the incident was, in all probability, a dream.

Now … obviously I can’t begrudge the show a dream sequence, or whatever this is. But why? What do we learn here? That Alice wants Sophie to sexually dominate her? We know that. Without that dynamic she would have fired Sophie one of the 12 times she proved unreliable over the course of the series.

So instead, it’s not really a release or an admission or even a real attack. It’s cheap titillation, a ludicrous misdirect, and also a true failure of imagination. If it’s really happening, why? And if it’s a dream, well … Alice is supposed to be an award-winning filmmaker and this is as creative as her subconscious gets? This should have been either a prolonged erotic encounter or a 10-second dream sequence. Instead, it’s a very awkward four- or five-minute interruption.

‘I need some air!’

I can’t fault Losing Alice for doing any of the things it does, and it’s not like it’s bad. It’s just not meant to be a series. Zurer is continually great, the best in a perfectly fine cast, and I do wish the show was the showcase it threatens to be.

It’s competently shot, well-designed and the pace is fine on a scene-to-scene level. It’s just that most of the scenes don’t need to exist.

For instance, Alice visits one of Sophie’s old boyfriends, who goes on at length about how he thinks his ex is innocent. Of course he does … they’re dating or anyway they sleep together enough. And then Alice almost sleeps with him until Sophie walks in and catches them.

None of it’s believable. And, worse, it all suffers from a dull predictability. There’s just so little here that justifies its inclusion in the story. I’m losing hope fast that Losing Alice is going anywhere.

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.