Still Alice (PG-13) ★★★★

Julianne Moore stars in "Still Alice." Photo Credit: Sony Pictures.
Julianne Moore stars in “Still Alice.” Photo Credit: Sony Pictures.

An Unforgettable Performance by Julianne Moore

Even if you don’t have an immediate loved one who is affected, you may know someone who is. More than five million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease, and that number continues to grow.

Writers and directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland produced an excellent film that centers on the raw emotions behind such a difficult subject.

Still Alice, adapted by the bestseller of the same name by Lisa Genova, zooms in on the life of Alice Howland (Julianne Moore, Non-Stop 2014). Alice is in her early 50s and happily married (Alec Baldwin, Blue Jasmine, 2013) with three grown children – Anna (Kate Bosworth, Homefront 2013), Lydia (Kristen Stewart, Camp X-Ray, 2014) and Tom (Hunter Parrish, The Good Wife, 2013-2014). She’s a well-known linguistics professor at Columbia University, who ironically starts to forget words. One day, while jogging through Columbia’s campus, Alice soon realizes that she has no idea where she is. After her disoriented incident, Alice’s fears quickly ramp up, and she immediately sees a doctor in fear of cancer. Several appointments later, Alice receives her devastating and shocking diagnosis: early-onset Alzheimer’s. The icing on the cake is that not only is this a rare form being early on-set, but it is also genetic. The Howland family quickly finds their bonds being tested.

This thought provoking drama provides a humbling look at the life of an incredibly blessed woman who has been known for her intelligence all her life and now her gift is quickly vanishing. We look on as Alice prepares for her future, writing notes and creating videos for her soon-to-be forgotten self. Watching this irreversible brain disease progressively destroy Alice’s memory and thinking skills is heartbreaking.

Glatzer and Westmoreland don’t stop there, however. At times, we find ourselves inside of Alice’s head. We experience the disorientation and the frustration of not being able to communicate. With the change in camera angles and focus, I found myself feeling anxious, hopeless and lost like Alice. Seeing each family member try and cope with her condition only adds to the tragedy of the story and it’s rather unexpected who prioritizes Alice before themselves. The once rebellious Lydia unexpectedly takes on the more hands-on roll, and it is refreshing to see her evolve. Moore is certainly the backbone of this film. Her performance is undoubtedly Oscar worthy, and the classically cold Stewart warms up in Still Alice.

Alice’s realistic point of view hits close to home for this married writer-director duo. Glatzer suffers from Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS, another neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.

The fact that Alice’s oldest, Anna, is about to have twins adds another dimension to the threat of the genetic disease. This seemed a little too planted in the script. The supporting cast, including Baldwin, received little time on screen, but their limited presence was necessary for this story. Overall, however, the film was resonant and memorable, and I have a feeling the Academy will have a difficult time forgetting this one too.

Bottom-Line? As Alice’s disease rapidly progresses, Moore becomes more and more mesmerizing. The subject matter will touch all audiences, not just those who have been affected by Alzheimer’s. This thought-provoking film will make you hold your memories that much closer.

Cast: Julianne Moore (Dr. Alice Howland), Kate Bosworth (Anna Howland-Jones), Alec Baldwin (Dr. John Howland), Kristen Stewart (Lydia Howland), Hunter Parrish (Tom Howland)

Credits: Directed and written by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland; novel by Lisa Genova

Studio: Sony Pictures Classics

Run Time: 99 minutes

Jessica Aymond © November 30, 2014