Saturday, February 14, 2015
Still Alice Movie Review
For movies about terminally or debilitatingly ill characters, you could do a lot worse than Still Alice. Adapted and directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland from the book by Lisa Genova, it’s about a woman diagnosed with and then suffering the consequences of early onset Alzheimer’s. She’s only fifty, still working as a university lecturer, giving talks around the world on linguistics and language development. She’s still physically active as a runner and involved in her children’s lives. They are at that precarious age in between childhood and having families of their own, chronologically adults, but still in need of mother’s care.
It’s hard enough to deal with Alzheimer’s as an elderly person. No one wants to think of losing their memories, their relationships, their knowledge and abilities. But to be so young and staring at losing your career and professional respectability or your husband who is still in the prime of his own career and can’t necessarily devote himself to your care. Julianne Moore is an exceptional actress. She always has been and she adds another feather in her cap as Alice. She takes on the difficult task of playing a woman who not only has to register lack of recognition, but also that she is masking it in front of others. Moore is just wonderful and she doesn’t make Alice into a sad caricature of forgetfulness.
Credit is also due to Glatzer and Westmoreland, whose adaptation is respectful of the disease and of the audience. This is a movie that doesn’t pander or go in for the easy and obvious emotional ploys. It’s sort of self-evidently sad and terrifying especially a scene when Alice learns that her eldest daughter, Anna (Kate Bosworth) tested positive for the gene that causes the disease and so is guaranteed to go through the same.
Alec Baldwin co-stars as Alice’s husband, John, a character as generic as his name. Baldwin is serviceable as the supportive and loving partner and brings to the role assuredness, safety, and compassion. As her youngest daughter, Lydia, Kristen Stewart again brings that quality of disaffectedness. She’s the black sheep in the family, the one who has chosen acting as her profession and moved to the west coast away from her Boston-based family. The most developed relationship Alice has in the movie is with her. If the script could have done something more interesting, it would have been to flesh out all of her relationships a little more, particularly with Anna.
If Julianne Moore wins an Oscar for Still Alice, it will be the one thing that keeps this movie kicking around for a long time to come. It’s good, but unremarkable. It’s not bad, which it had every opportunity to be, but nor is it great. If Moore wins for this, I guess I can feel satisfied with that. It is an excellent performance, but the only thing that stands out in Still Alice.