In the made-for-TV movie landscape of the 70s, Go Ask Alice was IT. Jamie Smith-Jackson became the blueprint for teen girlhood after the ABC movie, one of the first (and still the best) of the kids-getting-into-drugs-at-school genre was broadcast in 1973.
Alice gets mixed up with the stoner kids after they dose her with acid-laced soda (“button, button, who gets the button?”) at a party while a bad cover of Traffic‘s Dear Mr Fantasy oozes on the soundtrack.
Soon she’s slimmed down thanks to speed, replaced her carefully curled locks with floppy hats, run away from home, got really strung out, and encountered Andy Griffith as the weary priest-who-knows-about-kids.
Home again, trapped between her perky naive parents and the ruthless kids who just won’t let her get straight, Alice struggles to save herself.
After being dosed while babysitting and hospitalised as a result, she’s reunited with her whiny, pre-drugs best friend and ultra-square boyfriend – the semiotics of this movie definitely run counter to its anti-drug message.
The movie ends with a freeze-frame of Alice poised to start a new school year as her mum’s voice informs us that Alice died of “an overdose of drugs” shortly after her 16th birthday.
To quote an ABC press release of the time, “How ‘mellow’ is a down? How ‘soft’ are the drugs? Go ask Alice . . . I think she’ll know”.
Jamie Smith-Jackson’s performance as Alice, complete with diary-entry narration, remains a definitive image of teen angst.
Daniel Michael Mann
John M Korty