Time to Remember
What would you do if everything you knew, everything you loved, every part of you that makes you...you disappeared? What if you were aware that it was happening and you knew there was absolutely nothing to be done to stop it? And in the absence of all those things are you still the same person? These are the questions at the root of the film Still Alice, written and directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland and based on the novel of the same name by Lisa Genova.
Alice Howland (Julianne Moore) is a brilliant linguistics professor at Columbia University. Successful and well renowned in the academic circle, she is happily married to her intellectual peer (Alec Baldwin) and has three grown children (Kate Bosworth, Hunter Parrish, and Kristen Stewart) with lives of their own. Every thing seems perfect, but of course something is amiss. Alarmed that she lost her way on a run and more importantly alarmed that she starts to lose words (words being her greatest joy), she visits a neurologist . She fears that she has a brain tumor, but it is much worse.
She is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's.
What follows is her struggle to come to terms with her diagnosis and her ultimate acceptance of her declining faculties. The movie hits all the right notes with her downward spiral, but still rings Hollywood in it's portrayal of the disease. By casting the 50year old Moore (whose nuanced portrayal raises the material) , it shows a prettier version of this ugly disease. The reality is much less glamorous. Making her a brilliant linguistic professor seems a bit of a cheat as well- even as she slips away, she has her wits about her enough to use her phone to answer a set of questions designed to help her remember simple facts about herself until she can't spell anymore. The fact that she was still able to conceptualize using the phone or navigating a computer in her diminished state seemed to stretch plausibility. She seems to be taking care of herself for the most part-. Her husband typically falls into a state of denial, refusing to acclimate or change his forward moving life- leaving her by herself way too much. Baldwin plays him with an empty coldness that belies the tortured reality.
The only one who seems attuned to her is her wayward actress daughter (a lovely performance by Kristen Stewart- words I never thought I would say!). Their scenes together electrify the screen, holding the most resonance (particularly one scene involving a found journal) and their relationship the most poignant.
All in all, Still Alice is a decent movie with extraordinary performances that make up for the sketchy made-for-Lifetime feel of the script. I went in expecting to be emotionally devastated, but for a few tear worthy scenes, I felt nothing.
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