Friday, May 22, 2015

Short Take: Still Alice

This review was originally published at Pol Culture.

Julianne Moore won a belated Best Actress Academy Award for her work in Still Alice. That’s pretty much all the film is notable for. It’s a tastefully made melodrama about a middle-aged Columbia professor (Moore) and the efforts of her and her family to cope after she develops early-onset Alzheimer’s. Her life is close to perfect--a prestigious career, a happy marriage, loving relationships with her adult children--and her fulfillment in it gradually and entirely slips away. Beyond the reversal of fortune the story begins with, there’s not much in the way of irony or dilemma; the film just tracks the professor’s deterioration and plays it for sentimental effect. The only scene that rises above the ordinary is when she tries (and fails) to follow through on a suicide plan. She has no awareness of what she’s doing; it’s darkly farcical and devastatingly poignant all at once. The rest of the picture is fairly conventional, but it’s well done for what it is. Moore capably plays her role, as does Alec Baldwin as her husband, and Kristen Stewart, who appears as their bohemian youngest daughter. The couple’s other two children are played by Kate Bosworth and Hunter Parrish. The screenplay, by the film's co-directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, is based on the 2007 novel by Lisa Genova.