Director: Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland
Cast: Julianne Moore, Kristen Stewart, Alec Baldwin, Kate Bosworth, Shane McRae, Hunter Parrish, Seth Gilliam
RunTime: 1 hr 41 mins
Rating: PG13 (Brief Coarse Language)
Released By: Golden Village Pictures
Official Website: http://sonyclassics.com/stillalice/
Opening Day: 5 February 2015
Synopsis: Alice Howland (Golden Globe winner and Oscar nominee Julianne Moore), happily married with three grown children, is a renowned linguistics professor who starts to forget words. When she receives a devastating diagnosis, Alice and her family find their bonds tested.
Deal with it, Leonardo DiCaprio. While the world has been crying fowl over how you haven’t won an Oscar, this writer has been pinning his hopes that 54 year old Julianne Moore will be recognised by The Academy one day. With her latest work in Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland’s film, the American actress has been nominated four times (Best Actress for 1999’s The End of the Affair and 2002’s Far from Heaven; Best Supporting Actress for 1997’s Boogie Nights and 2002’s The Hours) – the same time Mr DiCaprio has been nominated, for the record.
From the universal acclaim for Moore’s portrayal as a woman diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease, including wins at the Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice Movie Award and Screen Actors Guild Award, this should finally be the year the occasional children’s author steps on stage to receive an Oscar. It is easy for most viewers to flock to the cinemas to catch Moore’s award winning performance, and then discussing how natural or true to life it is. However, amidst all the award season hype, this reviewer found himself deeply affected by the film – mainly because of the subject matter it touches on.
Early onset Alzheimer’s disease is diagnosed before the age of 65, and is an uncommon form of Alzheimer’s, accounting only for five to 10 per cent of all cases. This film based on Lisa Genova’s novel explores what this means for the patient, as well as the people around her. Mooreplays a Columbialinguistics professor who suddenly finds herself forgetting things after a run. From there on, she struggles to manage her life, including her job, marriage and children.
Of course, as we all know, there can only be one ending for Alzheimer’s patients. The condition is something the protagonist cannot escape from. We see how an established person with a seemingly perfect life (family? check; career? check; social status? check) gradually loses things she holds dear. This is no sappy love story (read: Korean romantic movies) – it is a story that is happening somewhere as we speak. There is no melodrama with hysterical screams and dramatic outbursts. What you get instead are looks of helplessness and despair as the protagonist’s memories begin fading. And that is why, during the scenes when she desperately cries for help, they are especially heartbreaking to watch.
This film is not without hope though. The highlight of the 101 minute film a scene where the protagonist speaks at an Alzheimer’s Association event – as she highlights the words and phrases on her script, she talks about her short but emotion filled journey as a patient, fully aware that she will lose all memories eventually. The scene before the end credits is also one worth raving about. Seeing how someone you’ve spoken and interacted with on a normal, if not “taken for granted” basis, struggle to mutter the word “love”, it is a realisation how life still plays out beautifully with a loved one beside you.
If you have been following movie related news, this writer probably need not tell you about Moore’s performance in this film. You may want to look into her eyes while watching the movie (especially during the long takes where she is tested by her neurologist) – it is like hearing a dear friend speak, trying to understand how she wants to reach out to you. Needless to say, this is what has been getting the actress her awards, and hopefully, that golden statuette on 22 February. The rest of the supporting cast do a good job too – Alec Baldwin plays her supportive husband, Kate Bosworth and Hunter Parrish as her children who has received the greatest support growing up, and Kristen Stewart (in her best performance in a movie yet) as her daughter who Is pursuing an acting career.
While having someone dear to you diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease is definitely unfortunate, people around you, while saying their sorrys, move on. You learn how to come to terms with things and deal with issues that happen along the way. That, is what this film beautifully explores, and manages to have you walking out of the theater with the courage to continue your journey in life.
(A beautiful performance by Julianne Moore aside, this film looks at how, in the most difficult times, we can come to terms and move on with life)
Review by John Li