March 1, 2021

Apple TV+ thriller series ‘Losing Alice’ keeps you hooked | TV review | Arts & Entertainment

In the middle of last year, the folks at Apple TV+ picked up a second Israeli drama series, the neo-noir thriller “Losing Alice,” which followed the espionage-driven “Tehran.”

Again, they chose wisely.

Like “Tehran,” “Losing Alice” consists of eight roughly one-hour episodes, will require the reading of subtitles for most American viewers and is, most importantly, engrossing from its earliest moments.

Their similarities end there, however, as “Losing Alice” seeks to seduce you with pretty smart, very sexy and maybe just a little bit frightening.

Based on a viewing of the first four episodes — the series’ first three debut this week, with the following five weeks bringing one apiece — “Losing Alice” appears well worth working into your streaming schedule. We will note there are red flags as this Faustian tale proceeds, as it becomes increasingly difficult to suspend your disbelief, but this seems like a devil’s bargain worth making.

Created, written and directed by Sigal Avin (“The Ex List”), “Losing Alice” stars Ayelet Zurer as the titular Alice, a 47-year-old filmmaker with nothing much to say creatively at the moment and drifting farther and farther from the most relevant phase of her career.

Alice is married to David (Gal Toren), one of Israel’s best-known actors, although at least one critic believes his latest mainstream film illustrates a decline in his relevance, as well.

Into their lives slinks Sophie (Lihi Koronowski), a sexy, young screenwriter who has written a bold screenplay, filled with sex and darkness, that may prove to be exactly what both husband and wife need.

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Sophie (Lihi Koronowski) is an unproven, perhaps unstable, screenwriter in “Losing Alice.”

Early in the show’s excellent first episode, Alice has what appears to be a chance encounter with Sophie on a train, the latter introducing herself and telling her what a big fan she is of one of Alice’s earlier films. (She also offers that she has brought home men to re-enact an extremely erotic scene from it.)

“I was wondering where you disappeared to,” Sophie says.

Before they part ways — after strange behavior from Sophie that soon enough will feel par for the boundaries-pushing course for her — Sophie tells Alice that David has been sent her script and, according to her, loves it.

That proves to be more or less the case, and back home, when questioned by Alice, David tells her the script is, well, unusual.

“Read it — you’ll see,” he says. “We’ll talk.”

She does, and they do. Although it will involve him partaking in multiple steamy scenes with a female co-star, Alice finds the script from this unknown, apparently untrained writer to be daring and compelling.

Early on, you see hints that point toward Alice becoming the film’s director, a development further complicating the already-complex homelife involving the couple’s children and David’s weight-obsessed and opinionated mother.

Sophie becomes increasingly present in their life, and the mysterious young woman isn’t afraid to take a few liberties.

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Sophie (Lihi Koronowski) tries to get her way with David (Gal Toren) in a scene from “Losing Alice.”

Part of the reason she is the way she is, Sophie says, is that she was exposed to the films of Alfred Hitchcock at a too-young age. Hmm, that would help to explain it.

Still, it is Sophie’s behavior that, at times, can frustrate you as a viewer; it’s hard to believe that David and, especially, Alice would put up with it. On the other hand, the point is that she has something they want, especially Alice, who after becoming highly frustrated, manages to overlook Sophie’s sins.

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Sophie (Lihi Koronowski) and Alice (Ayelet Zurer) grow closer while taking part in an exercise-dance class.

Plus, to Avin’s credit, the series is dressed nicely with artistic touches, such as the thematically relevant quotes that lead us into each episode.

The first one — Louise Bourgeois’ “Art is a guarantee of sanity” — works as a tablesetter for an important theme of the series overall, as we come to worry all is not in complete balance inside Alice’s head.

Also, Avin deftfully and tantalizingly bookends some of the episodes with intriguing scenes. Most notably, the Bourgeois quote is followed by a well-filmed sequence at a hotel on a rainy night. It ends with a very bleak event.

We won’t say much more about it, other than that, eventually, we begin to suspect it is a scene from the movie that will be made. However, the episode’s closing scene only muddies that read.

A future episode bookends with a key event we strongly believe happens in the real world, but we won’t spoil that, either.

That “Losing Alice” keeps you puzzled and guessing is a big component to its success. We certainly can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

Along the way, we’ll continue to enjoy the performances, especially that of Zurer (“Munich,” “Angels & Demons”), whose work here is nuanced and interesting.

Koronowski (“The Burglar,” “I Was Born in Jerusalem”) also is key to the show working as well as it does. She is able to sell Sophie’s turn-on-a-dime emotional states and is able to make the trouble-generating character charming enough at times that we almost can see why Alice keeps believing in her.

Apple TV+ got off to a bit of a slow start, but it is smart acquisitions such as “Tehran” and “Losing Alice” that are helping it to become a more compelling offering in a crowded field of streaming services.

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