Director-Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland
Starring-Julianne Moore, Alec Bladwin
Scott’s Review #224
Reviewed February 26, 2015
Still Alice tells the story of a highly educated college professor who, at the young age of 50, is afflicted with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. She wrestles with, not only the gloomy diagnosis, but also the emotional effects of the disease and what effects they will have on her husband and three grown children. Also explored are the hereditary aspects of the illness and the effects on the offspring of the inflicted person. In a nutshell, the film has a calm demeanor, but is heartbreaking and a bit of a downer.
Alice Howland has always achieved success- she is a linguistics professor at the esteemed Columbia University in Manhattan and has a seemingly idyllic life. She lives an affluent lifestyle and has three grown, well-adjusted children. Alec Baldwin plays John Howland and Kristen Stewart plays the most predominantly featured daughter, Lydia. These points of perfection make the story and her gradual decline all the more tragic to watch. We root for Alice because she is an ideal character- kind, loving, the perfect mother and wife. How could a thing like this happen to her? When she goes for a jog near her campus and suddenly does not recognize her surroundings or where she is, the audience shares in Alice’s confusion.
The primary reason to watch the film is for the astounding performance that Julianne Moore gives, as Alice. The film borders on a very good Lifetime television movie, albeit, much better than that and arguably in the same vein, but the acting sets this one above the mediocre and that is largely due to Moore- with a lesser actress I ponder how the film would have succeeded. The tender scenes are wonderful- when Alice wets her pants, the audience also feels her humiliation. When she breaks down in fear and anxiety we do the same with her.
The supporting cast also deserves praise- specifically Baldwin and Stewart. While not entirely fleshed out characters, their lending of support to their wife and mother respectively makes the characters themselves sympathetic and likeable. An important scene in an ice-cream parlor late in the film when John asks Alice if she “really wants to be here” is misunderstood by Alice making the importance of what he is asking even more profound.
A scene where a coherent Alice, early in her diagnosis, leaves instructions for herself via video, to be seen when she is further along in her illness, is suspenseful and left me rooting for the result to be one way, which could be interpreted as drastic, and left me conflicted- a scene masterfully done.
My only criticism of the film is that despite the subject matter of Alzheimer’s disease which is devastating and life altering not only for the victim, but for the family, the film has a safe feel to it. I would have liked to have seen some darker, grittier moments throughout the film to make it even more effective. Certainly not a happily ever after story, bleaker moments might have prevailed. For sure a story centered on Moore, it also might have been interesting to further explore more of the effects the family have and will go through, especially Baldwin’s John. His character and Lydia could have been explored deeper instead of merely supporting and comforting Alice.
Still Alice is worth seeing if only for the performance of Julianne Moore- a talented actress doing a brilliant job in the title role.
Oscar Nominations: Best Actress-Julianne Moore (won)
Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Female Lead-Julianne Moore (won)