February 5, 2015
Still Alice (***) PG-13
Alzheimer’s is one of the cruelest of diseases. To attempt to portray its horrors onscreen is an almost thankless task. It’s been attempted before in such respectable endeavors as Away From Her and Iris, to name but two. The film Still Alice isn’t likely to usurp those earlier cinematic dramatizations of the cruel disease but the film certainly proves to be a worthy companion piece to them if nothing else. If it doesn’t have quite the dramatic power of Away From Her—and it doesn’t—the film more than makes up for that shortcoming with the dramatic performances contained therein.
Julianne Moore’s title role in Still Alice has been receiving accolades since before the film was officially released. It’s a good performance to be sure but the supporting cast is equally effective in spite of the fact that Alec Baldwin and Kristen Stewart, as the husband and daughter of Alice, respectively, have quite a bit on their plates in terms of fulfilling the dramatic tasks set before them. They more than live up to it and it would be a shame to overlook their work here.
Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease but it seems doubly cruel when the afflicted turns out to be someone whose entire career and life have been based on intellectual pursuits as the Alice of the film’s title.
Kristen Stewart & Julianne Moore in Still Alice
Alice is in her early fifties and a well-respected linguistics professor. She first begins to forget words, something that isn’t such a major cause of alarm as one begins to age. It’s when Alice goes for a run and can’t remember where she is, however, that it becomes clear that this is a more serious matter.
The film’s trajectory follows Alice from the early onset of the disease through its devastating irrevocable effects. It also details the toll it takes on Alice’s family, notably her physician husband (Baldwin), ensconced in his own career and hardly having a place in his life to deal with a situation as grave as the one his wife is facing. The film also illuminates the relationships that Alice has with her three daughters, and in particular, the Kristen Stewart character who’s determined to make it as an actress and has opted for pursuing a career as opposed to finishing college, much to Alice’s disappointment. The way that Alice’s children must put their own lives on hold for the sake of their mother also proves to be an essential element to the film.
Still Alice is based on a novel by Lisa Genova and written and directed for the screen by Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer. They handle the material with a sensitive touch but are careful not to be too maudlin. It’s a capable job by the writing-directing team who paint a portrait of woman bravely embarking on a final journey that will come to erase the individual uniqueness that defines the human condition.
Still Alice is not yet playing in Charlotte or anywhere in NC, at press time. Questions or comments?
Questions or comments? Write Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org.