Frances Winston found this film to be a little heavy in places, but still worth a look
Directed by: Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland – Starring: Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, Hunter Parrish
As the film which finally won the supremely talented Julianne Moore a Best Actress Oscar, this is pretty much guaranteed an audience, as people flock to see her star turn. The fact that it is based on a much-loved, best-selling 2007 novel of the same name won’t do it any harm either. However, it takes more than a beloved star and popular source material to make a good movie, which is something that Directors, Glatzer and Westmoreland, don’t seem to have taken note of.
Moore plays the titular Alice, a professor of linguistics and mum of three, who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. As the disease takes hold, she desperately tries to retain her sense of self, setting up questions that she must answer daily, and trying to memorise random words. She records a video to her future self, instructing her to commit suicide when she becomes unable to answer her daily questions.
Forced to leave her job and deteriorating rapidly, relations with her family become increasingly strained, particularly her relationship with her husband, John (Baldwin). Over the months she gets progressively worse, until there is nothing of the old Alice left, and her daughter Lydia (Stewart) abandons her life in California to care for her.
As you can gather, this isn’t a barrel of laughs. This movie screams heavy from the off. Moore does indeed give a great performance as Alice, who turns from a confident, successful, and driven woman, to a shell over the course of the film. However, this is not her best ever performance, and I wonder if perhaps the Academy was honouring her more for her body of work than this picture alone.
In one scene where she gives a speech about her struggle with Alzheimer’s, she is supposed to be reading it, but Moore has very clearly memorised the words, and it shows, which causes the scene not to ring true, and there are a couple of other moments like this which made me question her win. The supporting cast are all competent. Baldwin is suitably tortured as a husband who is slowly losing his wife, and Bosworth and Stewart do a decent job as the daughters who are unsure how to deal with their mother’s illness.
The directors have gone for an understated feel here, but the result is that at times this is very slow-moving. There are also issues with the passage of time, as it is not always clear just how long Alice has been ill, and there are some scenes where she appears to have deteriorated overnight, where it is actually supposed to be a period of several months. They are clearly trying to handle the subject matter sensitively, but at times they are over-sensitive to the point of boring.
There are some lovely moments in this, and it is almost impossible not to be moved by it on some level, but other than the star names, it screamed made for TV movie to me. The heavy subject matter won’t exactly leave you uplifted either, so I would advise waiting until you are in the right frame of mind to see this.
Decent but inconsistent, Still Alice doesn’t live up to its hype, but is worth a look.
In cinemas now!