STILL ALICE (USA | France/12A/101mins)
Directed by Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland. Starring Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, Hunter Parrish.
THE PLOT: When she begins to forget random words and gets lost in her hometown, Alice (Julianne Moore) seeks help from a neurologist. Diagnosed with familial early onset Alzheimer’s, Alice and her family try to keep going as normal, for as long as possible, while Alice is painfully aware of everything she is losing.
THE PLOT: There is bound to be a lot of interest in STILL ALICE since Moore’s Oscar win for her leading role, and even though the film was not nominated for awards in other Oscar categories – a move that can often spell disaster – Still Alice is a powerful and touching film.
Julianne Moore is the heart and soul of STILL ALICE; she does not play the title character as a perfect woman, but instead makes her rounded and believable, with a touch of arrogance. As the film goes on, and Alice’s disease progresses, Julianne Moore makes Alice vulnerable and, at turns, vicious as she struggles to come to terms with a disease that is outside of her control. Moore is quiet and understated, and it is precisely this that makes her performance so mesmerising and powerful. The rest of the cast – Kate Bosworth, Alec Baldwin, Hunter Parrish and Kristen Stewart – back Moore up admirably, with Baldwin and Stewart as standouts.
The story, written by directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland – and based on Lisa Genova’s novel of the same name – focuses on Alice and the struggle she goes through is trying to hold onto herself in the face of a degenerative disease. Glatzer and Westmoreland never make the film spill into the realm of melodrama, but they don’t pull any punches either – lines such as ‘I wish I had cancer’ since this is a visible disease, are particularly honest – and they do not force Moore to remain in a glamorous role as her character changes. This is not a woman who goes gracefully into that good night, lying in a hospital bed looking tired but beautiful, instead Moore, as Alice, becomes incontinent, angry, impatient and eventually, slips away, so that almost none of the character’s spark is left.
Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland direct competently, coaxing a moving and heartwrenching performance from Moore, but allowing the supporting cast to be hones too – selfish, emotionally neglectful, resentful and kind – so as to also show the manner in which people deal with tragedy.
In all, STILL ALICE is anchored by a quiet but unselfconscious and powerful performance from Julianne Moore. The story is strong and the supporting cast ably back Moore, making STILL ALICE a gut-punch, honest emotional film that will leave audiences feeling a little fearful, a little grateful and a little frazzled.
Review by Brogen Hayes

Still Alice
Review by Brogen Hayes
4.0Honest & emotional
  • filmbuff2011

    It’s a case of fourth time lucky for Julianne Moore. The renowned American actress had three previous Oscar nominations until she hit Oscar gold on her fourth last night, for sensitive human drama Still Alice. Alice Howland (Moore) is a respected linguistics professor at New York’s Columbia University. Words are what she is best at professionally, but personally she also has a family to care for: husband John (Alec Baldwin) and adult children Lydia (Kristen Stewart), Anna (Kate Bosworth) and Tom (Hunter Parrish). Alice finds herself losing words and unable to express herself clearly. She also starts to forget things. A medical diagnosis confirms that she has early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease, a fact that horrifies her family. Over the next few months, we follow Alice and the Howland family as they cope with Alice’s situation. With her mind and memory slowly deteriorating, how much can Alice hold onto? Based on the book by Lisa Genova, Still Alice aims to be a moving drama about family and memory loss. In that, it succeeds admirably. But it also suffers from that disease-of-the-week syndrome that so often plagues cheaply made TV movies. If it wasn’t for actors of the calibre of Moore and Baldwin, it’s unlikely it would have made it to the big screen. It’s easy to be cynical about these types of movies, but Moore is what elevates the material beyond a soppy TV drama. She’s quietly powerful here, never losing sight of who Alice is even during one questionable sequence involving a video diary. It’s genuinely moving to follow this character’s journey from a sharp, intelligent matriarch to a blunt, helpless woman who struggles with words. That said though, this reviewer feels that Marion Cotillard’s stunning, raw, highly emotive performance in Two Days, One Night was more deserving of an Oscar. Still Alice is a good film, but not a great one. See it mainly for Moore’s performance, which if anything should create more awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and its devastating impact on the human mind. ***