Alanis Morissette stars in the new movie, Radio Free Albemuth, along with Shea Whigham. The sci-fi movie is about an alien who sends trasmissions to Earth to the mind of an earthling in order to start a revolution. Through pop songs.
Sci-Fi novelist Philip K. Dick is one of the greats and his book of the same title was published posthumously in 1985 to a wide fan base and great reviews. However, it’s general knowledge that turning a book with such a weird premise into a good movie would probably be fairly difficult. That kind of a storyline needs more than an angst-ridden pop star from the 90’s like Alanis Morissette.
That’s why, when Steven Spielberg (Minority Report) and Paul Verhoeven (Total Recall, 1990) made movies from Philip K. Dick books, they had to take fairly excessive liberties with the material they had to work with.
The story goes that a record store clerk, played by Jonathan Scarfe, receives weird visions that tell him to move to Las Angeles and get a job in the music industry. There he meets Sylvia, played by Alanis Morissette, who has been appearing in his visions.
The pair then proceeds to write a pop song that will lead to the overthrowing of the U.S. government.
Hmmm. Even with Alanis Morissette that sounds like a doomed flop. Unfortunately for new director John Alan Simon, who really wanted to take “a purist approach” to a story many believe to be Dick’s most autobiographical work, this proved to be closer to the truth than he probably hoped.
The critics weren’t thrilled.
Sara Stewart of the New York Post said, “Despite the dramatic dystopia, performances here are uniformly low-affect, which isn’t helpful given the exposition-heavy dialogue and unremarkable set (though Nick’s extraterrestrial visions have a pleasantly kitschy look). Also puzzling is the fact that the pivotal song is not actually performed by Morissette.”
She added, “It’s pretty underwhelming, though interesting for its premise — a semi-autobiographical account of Dick’s own trippy experiences in the ’70s.”
Jeanette Catsoulis of the New York Times said, “The result is a quaint labor of love blinkered by fidelity to an outdated text. Stiff staging and not-so-special effects accompany Jonathan Scarfe and Alanis Morissette as they endure a despotic alternate reality and get communications from an alien intelligence. The excellent Shea Whigham, as a science-fiction writer, is our guide and narrator, but even his gravitas won’t keep you from laughing at an extraterrestrial who thinks that hiding subliminal messages in pop songs is the way to start a revolution.”
Perhaps the next director to take on a Philip K. Dick novel shouldn’t take such a “purist” stance.
Image via YouTube