Friday, February 6

REVIEW: Still Alice

Directed by Richard Glatzer
and Wash Westmoreland
2014 Drama
1 hour 41 minutes
From Sony Pictures Classics

Julianne Moore
Alec Baldwin
Kristen Stewart
Kate Bosworth
Shane McRae
Hunter Parrish

When I hear her laugh, pretty close to a belly laugh, I cannot help but join her.  It feels as if I knew her, maybe even that we knew one another in a former life.  To say that I am drawn to her is an understatement.  There is something about Julianne Moore that is magnificently un-actressy and yet I put her in the top three of American actresses.  The versatility alone of her many roles is proof enough that very few can hang out in her company.  I do not miss her films.  What few I did miss over the years I have gone back and caught up on.  Her range is always somewhere between very, very good and brilliant.  Sometimes she is the best thing about the film, sometimes she is the only worthwhile thing of a film.

There is not much laughter in Still Alice.  It is the story of a 50-year old woman's descent into Alzheimer's.  At first it is forgetting a word during a speech and losing her way through familiar territory while on a run to ultimately not recognizing her own child.  It is heartbreaking at every turn and Moore squeezes out every drop of pathos.

In the book her profession was a psychologist but here she is a linguistics professor which lends a little more to the sadness of her losing her command of words.  She is married to a scientist and has three grown children.  In addition to the disbelief of a woman her age getting this disease, it is discovered that it is a familial one, meaning she can pass it on to her children.

There were some audible sounds in the mainly older audience attending with me when Moore's character says she'd rather have cancer than Alzheimer's.  I wondered who would disagree with that, given that there is often some hope attached to cancer while there is none with Alzheimer's and that Alzheimer's takes away your mind, steals from you the very person you are. 

My favorite part of the film was a speech Alice reads to a group of fellow sufferers and other interested parties.  She has already gotten to the point where her memory has failed her and even with the notes and her careful use of a yellow marker as she reads along, I was a bit angst-ridden watching her perform a previously simple task.

I suppose it's a given that Moore is going to win the Oscar.  The thing is Hollywood wants to give her the award.  Partly, they want to make up for past transgressions on their parts.  And of course she is fantastic in the role; in fact, the best thing about the film.  Once said, I think she has done better work.

If she is one of my favorite actresses, Kristen Stewart is one of my least.  I tend to avoid seeing her films even if I suspect I may otherwise like it.  But I gotta be fair and give her her just rewards... she was pretty darned good as the youngest daughter, who wants to be an actress.  Frankly, I don't think I've ever seen her quite so engaged, so connected, so present.

Alec Baldwin gives his usual able support as the husband who completely stands by his wife.

I had a few problems with the film as well.  I have said before and must do so again... illness movies are best suited to television, the Hallmark Channel specifically.  The intimacy of the small screen seems to align itself better with such themes.  Perhaps television commercials also come in handy to break up the despair.  I also think a bit more could have been developed with the family members.  For example, when the oldest daughter finds out she is a candidate for the disease herself, there is no follow-up except a brief phone call between mother and daughter.  There should have been more.  I also felt the film dragged some in its final third.  By this point she has settled into her disease, doing little more than staring and it hardly lends itself to interesting drama.

I saw and enjoyed and reviewed the last film of these co-directors (with Glatzer also doing the screenplay), The Last of Robin Hood, and was interested to see that before that film, they appear to have been involved in gay-themed films.

Next posting:
Good 60s Films

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm. This one might hit too close to home for us old guys. Sure do like the star, however. Can't find it locally. A good thing?