Monday, January 26, 2015

[Review] Still Alice

Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, and Kristen Stewart are family in Still Alice (based on a novel of the same name), an indie drama about a woman coping with a very rare, extremely early onset Alzheimer's disease.

Alice (Moore) is a linguistics professor at Columbia. She's starting to forget words during speeches and getting lost during her jogs around the city. After she visits a neurologist, she finds out that the mishaps are more than just memory lapses. She struggles to break the news to her husband (Baldwin), as well as her three kids, especially because the disease has hereditary potential.

As you might've already guessed, this is a downer of a film, but it's executed with careful rigor. The story unfolds with a natural poignancy, and the script explores all of the difficult situations Alice faces as she does her best to cope with the disease. We see her mental capacity deteriorate before our eyes, and there are some absolutely crushing scenes, but even though it's often a depressing viewing, it has a number of bright moments to give it balance.

Julianne Moore's performance is superbly convincing. She gives full dimension to the character and is pitch-perfect at every turning point. It wouldn't be surprising if her name gets read during the Oscars. Alec Baldwin is solid and restrained in one of the more serious and compassionate roles he's been in. And after breaking free from Twilight, Kristen Stewart continues to prove to be a genuinely great actress with the indie streak she's been on.

Still Alice doesn't do much to differentiate itself from other films of this subject. It's very similar to Away From Her, it isn't as inventive as Robot & Frank, and it won't be the cult tearjerker that is The Notebook, but it's still a deeply moving examination of a disease that causes so much loss.


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