‘Still Alice’, based on the book of the same name by Lisa Genova, is an intense emotional drama directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland. Julianne Moore has won an Academy nomination for her portrayal of ‘Alice’, the woman who becomes stricken with early onset Alzheimers. The film documents the sudden decline of a linguistic professor (Moore) at the peak of her career as she fights an uphill battle against the debilitating disease. We follow her decline and the impact it has on her husband (Alec Baldwin) and family; son (Hunter Parrish) and daughters (Kristen Stewart and Kate Bosworth). This film surely drowned me in pathos, as the beginning paints a nearly envious family dynamic, which we watch fall apart in the ensuing months. This is actually painful to watch. A film that evokes this much emotion in the viewer should be infinitely praised for being a movie with a soul.
Hopefully this movie can also raise awareness for the importance of Alzheimer research, since it is often thought that diseases that affect the “young” deserve more attention and funding. It is an interesting parallel to reality that Alice, a woman at the height of her career, gets the disease at such a young age due to a tragically random, incredibly rare gene. In truth, early-onset Alzheimers is mostly a mystery to medical professionals save for a couple of rare genetic markers that only a few hundred families worldwide have been found to have. Seth Rogen founded ‘Hilarity for Charity’ after experiencing first hand how the disease, for which there is currently no cure, ravaged his wife’s mother and affected the entire family. He continues to hold Variety Shows and upload hilarious videos onto Funny or Die for the cause.
‘Still Alice’ is an extremely complex movie, keeping one’s feelings towards characters constantly in flux. It’s a fantastic screenplay but I wonder even now what sort of mood, and on what occasion, myself as a casual movie-goer would ever choose to see something like this. Of course I can’t blame the movie for being so horrifically honest, and my empathy for people dealing with ‘early onset Alzheimers’ and those who stand by their side (although already strong) has increased exponentially.
Really the performance that made this cavalcade of stirring emotions possible came from Julianne Moore, the movie really hinged on her ability to convey a person whose mind is playing tricks on them, and who is feeling a sense of helpless fragmentation as control of her consciousness begins to dissolve. There seems to be a plethora of movies that have come out recently that have the actor in the starring role go through intense transformations (Eddie Redmayne in “The Theory of Everything”, Steve Carell in “Foxcatcher) but Moore’s character is especially tragic as she has to portray the fear and acceptance of this mysterious and devastating disease which strikes predominantly women in the prime of their lives.
Still Alice premieres January 23rd in Canada and it is a remarkable movie but viewer beware of its emotional gravity, even if it is sometimes accidentally undercut by Kristen “cardboard cut-out” Stewart’s fairly lacklustre performance. Still Alice had its world premiere in Toronto at TIFF and has won numerous awards including PSIFF where Moore won the Best Actress Award for this role a week before the Oscar nomination was announced.