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Academy Award Lead Actress Contender: "Still Alice" (Julianne Moore)
As Relentlessly Sobering As It Is Necessary, 'Still Alice' Finds Julianne Moore and Her Supporting Cast & Crew on Their A-Game
Wow, just wow. There are simply very little words I can use to perfectly describe what I've just seen. Much like Julianne Moore's Alice character in the film, I am finding it increasingly difficult to convincingly muster up the exact words to describe this viewing experience. While I can't say I was entertained to the fullest degree, I do know one thing is certain: It is certainly a film that will resonate with me for a very long time largely because of the deft showmanship of Moore, the screenplay that never glosses over the issue of Alzheimer’s or makes light of troubling and hard to understand issues and the timeliness and relatability of such an earth-shattering diagnoses.
Moore, for her part, has the film rest squarely on her shoulders and anchors the entire picture with the confidence and poise that has culminated in a career filled with many gems. From her 50s set Todd Haynes directed domestic drama "Far from Heaven" to her sci-fi turn in the very smart and meticulously crafted "Children of Men" by Alfonso Cuaron, Moore has enlisted the most of her range here and benefits from an able cast as well. Alec Baldwin, continuing his 2010s career uptick after Woody Allen's well-regarded 2013 film "Blue Jasmine," is so utterly believable in the role of Moore's helpless but supportive husband that he wins you over in some tough scenes immediately. Amazingly, Kristen Stewart, who has long been criticized for her lack of emotiveness in virtually every role particularly after her Razzie Award nomination for her work in the "Twilight" film series, gives a career-best performance as Moore's daughter. Her performance, while understated, makes you empathize with her character really having to shoulder the heft of the entire family after Moore gets the bad news. After her war film "Camp X-Ray" which came out in late 2014, I am cautiously optimistic about Stewart's next project.
The rest of the cast, namely a very beleaguered looking Kate Bosworth as Moore's eldest daughter and recipient of equally bad news in the fact that she learns that early-onset Alzheimer's is hereditary, is a welcome component of the ensemble and does her best with what little screen time she has. Moore's unusually plucky doctor who delivers her results but tries to come off as charismatic, also illicit good vibes. All in all, the casting director for the film did exemplary work.
What really struck me was how much Moore truly inhabited her part down to even the most minuscule ticks and idiosyncrasies. Her character starts by forgetting words and that is particularly significant since she was once a lauded Professor of Linguistics at Columbia University. In these scenes, despair quickly and evidently fills her face with dread as she knows full well her identity and her ability to interact with any degree of optimum functionality will soon be severely handicapped. Moore's character is one of distinction and, to a degree, pride, as she has spent her entire life and career being passionate about the power and the science of communication. Knowing that she may in fact lose the ability to remember how to speak, genuinely frightens her. The last 20 minutes of the film are an extremely difficult watch as her character's mind becomes tragically undone and stripped apart by a disease she never saw coming. It is a revelatory swan song of an ending and is carried out in equal measure.
Do I recommend "Still Alice" to any filmgoer? Surely not. It is a film that requires patience and possession of an empathetic bone in one's body. Because it is so true to life it will certainly touch home with many families whose loved ones have become stricken with Alzheimer’s or other life-altering neurological disorders. At its best, it holds itself enormously high as an acute documentation of the psychosocial effects of the disease done so with insight and passionate execution of its subject matter. While I can't unanimously sing its praises due to the nature of its storytelling, if you are looking for a raw and telling reason to understand the illness more, this is WITHOUT A DOUBT your ticket.