Still Alice Movie Review

As a movie critic, I have the advantage of being able see nearly every film in a given year.  Unfortunately, I’m not able to capitalize on every opportunity and I miss one or two that I would have like to mention in my end of year Top Ten List.  STILL ALICE is one of the best films from 2014 that is being wide released in February 2015.  The film opened with a small release before the new year, which made its star eligible for the Best Actress Academy Award.  Much like Emma Thompson in WIT, Julianne Moore owns this film and her performance elevates STILL ALICE into an emotionally impactful and challenging drama that will stick with you long after it’s over.

Julianne Moore in Still Alice

Alice Howland (Julianne Moore ) is an esteemed linguistic professor at Colombia.  She is happily married to her equally intelligent husband John (Alec Baldwin). Together they have three adult children (Kate Bosworth, Hunter Parrish, Kristen Stewart), one of which is married and hoping to have children soon.  After some minor but alarming lapses in memory, Alice learns that she is suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s disease, a gene that could possibly be passed on to her children.  What follows is a quick descent from bright, clear-minded intelligence into complete memory-losing helplessness due to this horrific disease.

Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin in Still Alice

Like many films this past year that cover a certain person or event in history, STILL ALICE educates how Alzheimer’s affects an individual and a family.  In many ways, I believe it is a far more effective telling than a handful of the Best Picture Oscar nominees.  THE IMITATION GAME, THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, AMERICAN SNIPER and SELMA all have fascinating material and in the case of the later two, achieve a captivating film.  But none capture the emotion or gravitas of their situation the same way STILL ALICE tackles Alzheimer’s.

Directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland do a simple but extremely effective trick of blurring the focus whenever Alice is suffering from her Alzheimer’s. This small adjustment makes a big difference in helping the audience identify with the foggy state of Alice.  It might be an obvious choice, but the result in the overall story telling is hugely compelling.

Julianne Moore in Still Alice

Admittedly, I was a complete emotional mess during this film. Finding so many ways of identifying as either a sibling, a husband, a child, a parent or even Alice herself, STILL ALICE masterfully gives a taste of how each family member might be affected by such a tragic disease.  Of course, many of these moments are only touched upon, but the weight of each scene is felt dramatically.  Alec Baldwin and Kristen Stewart deliver strong supporting performances but the film belongs to Julianne Moore. In other hands, the film could tread dangerously into a melodramatic state, but Moore keeps the affect subtle as we see an array of emotion simply through her eyes.  I truly loved STILL ALICE for reminding me to continually cherish and love my family, a lesson that can never be over sold.

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