Classic Movie Review: Still Alice (2014)

Posted: September 7, 2015 in Drama
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stillalice

Alice Howland (Julianne Moore)is a highly accomplished linguistics professor at Columbia University, with a motivated and successful husband, John (Alec Baldwin) who’s a doctor, and three kids. Her son Tom, (Hunter Parrish) is a doctor, her older daughter Anna,(Kate Bosworth) is a lawyer, and younger daughter, Lydia (Kristen Stewart) is a struggling actress.  Alice just turned 50, and feels like there is nothing she can’t accomplish.  But while jogging, Alice forgets where she is, and struggles to get home.  Soon thereafter, she visits her neurologist, Dr. Benjamin (Stephen Kunken) and finds out she has early onset Alzheimer’s disease.  Alice learns to overcompensate for her memory loss, but soon there is no hiding the ravages of the disease.  It is hereditary, so Alice worries about Anna who is pregnant with twins, and whether Tom or Lydia will pass the gene on. She worries about Lydia’s career choice, and wants her to go to college, an idea Lydia bristles at.  John gets an offer to go to the Mayo Clinic, and wants to move Alice to Minnesota with him, but as Alice’s mind deteriorates, who will give her the care she needs?

Still Alice is a wonderfully sober look at memory loss and dementia.  There are no magic pills or panacea offered, just a gripping look at how a strong, vital and woman loses all her mental acuity.  It’s sad, but not depressingly so, the characters are real, and not just instantly supportive of Alice.  John has his own career to worry about, Lydia wants to be an actress, with no safety net.  Anna has to suddenly worry about herself or her kids having this debilitating disease.  All the subplots are woven seamlessly into the main story, and it all works.

The acting is superb, Julianne Moore won the Oscar for her performance and deservedly so, she gives a riveting performance as Alice, the viewer can’t help but follow her on her journey to dementia, she portrays the character so realistically, that the viewer feels every memory lapse as if it was happening to them.  There is not one false note in her performance.  Moore somehow fills the performance with hope, Alice’s speech to the Alzheimer’s association is spellbinding.  Alec Baldwin is equally strong as the likeable but somewhat self-centered husband, he’ll take care of Alice but he also wants to fulfill his goals,  Kristen Stewart gives a surprisingly strong performance, as the prodigal daughter, who is headstrong and still fighting for her own identity in this overachieving family.

The direction was also effective, every time Alice would have one of her memory lapses the picture would get fuzzy and the music would become discordant, so it became both a visual and auditory signal that something was wrong.  There were flashbacks to Alice’s childhood that looked like home movies, so there was a lot of effort to make this a visual movie as well as a character study.  The directors got great performances from Moore and Baldwin, and Kristen Stewart, who’s probably just happy to be done with the Twilight films.

Still Alice:  A shadowy trip down  Memory Lane.

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