A white rabbit is flung into this film (for no obvious reason) early. It led me down a rabbit hole (on the second pass), and continued to show me an alarming frequency of looking glasses, rearview mirrors and reflective, funhouse angles on events and people whose surfaces/reputations/manners are markedly different from one interaction to the next. The rabbit put me on track for an Alice lurking somewhere inside an enigmatic smile, which made itself known on all of the faces of each of the several daughters who show up eventually to torment, elude and beguile the central character (played by a constantly-peripatetic [white rabbit-like] Bob Hoskins) ever-deeper into a native London he’s never known.
It’s a filmic attempt to explore the sexual adventures of exploited young women not through the eyes of a male, chauvenist, racist, Cockney pig (who’s spent the past seven years deprived of the company of women) but through his lively, pink face as his innocence, self-image and crusty exterior evaporate in the ominous presence of his awakening to a reluctant self-awareness that marks both his outward, physical appearance and extends deep into this particular man’s ability to percieve the people around him…as the increasingly-complicated, interesting and potentially-anihilating projections/familiars of the person he formerly thought himself to be.
Along with the debatable references to Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece, there are interesting parallels to Carroll’s realworld sexual eccentricities, involving puns, figures of speech, and presumed sexual adventures with very-young females…presented in a cinematically surreal manner that makes adolescent prostitution appear to be an institutional artifact of contemporary society; a hellish jungle of our own creation through which the camera moves, following people it brings us close enough to care about as they move through the seamy, unattractive underside of our abandoned, urban dreams.
The familiar, Official London peeks at us remotely, through negligent cracks in the drab and tawdry midground scenery, as our intimate associates in the foreground fling mercurial facets of their personalies directly at us; Bob Hoskins and Robbie Coltrane alternate as TweedleDum&Dee, while Clarke Peters grins perversely slashing boldly with a straight-razor, and Michael Caine conspires, fumes and commands with lethal intensity in every scene in which his subtle, almost-reptilian simplicities convene.
There’s also lots of tea, a little proctology (seen darkly through a looking glass), and a final resolution in which liars, storytellers and masterpieces of fantasy leave Promethean doubt with regard to what the hell one’s actually supposed to do with all this complex, layered and fascinating information about sexually-oriented projection, self-perception, class distinction, stereotypical profiling and personal survival in this world of ours as Neil Jordan kindly permits us to see it…by looking at the mug of a mug who gazes into the looking glass at the infinite promise of Life and finds a more-or-less limited human being (who dreamt he was a …). Or did he? Which goes to the heart of Shanley’s remark about Doubt, that the final and most challenging act of the play should be performed after the final curtain as members of the audience passionately discuss over unbirthday pie alamode and tea the details that led to the wide variations of their respective interpetations of the event they just witnessed together.