In what is possibly my last post linked to the 2014/15 Award Season I am (finally!) reviewing Still Alice, featuring best actress champ Julianne Moore. It took a while before it got released here in the Netherlands just days ago, but it was absolutely worth the wait. The film about a 50-year-old woman suffering from early on-set Alzheimer's disease, based on the book by Lisa Genova, is one to remember. It is truly touching, and considering the number of people suffering from Alzheimer's or other types of dementia, very close to many people's realities. Please be aware that there may be spoilers included after the break.
As I said Still Alice is based on the novel of the same name by Lisa Genova. I had just finished the book hours before I went to the cinema. I loved the book, making it almost impossible for me not to like the movie. There are some changes when comparing the movie to the book however, that I thought were not completely necessary. Setting it all in New York, with Alice teaching at Columbia, rather than Boston and a position at Harvard for example. Nothing shifting too far from what the story is really about though, so who am I to say anything about it. The story is still as heartbreaking and touching, no matter what the location really. Seeing how a woman, who has always defined herself with her intelligence and accomplishments loses herself and a career she has worked so hard for, is impressive and I imagine helps understanding an otherwise often misunderstood community.
Alice is brought to life, truly brought to life, by a magnificent Julianne Moore. From the very early stages of the disease, up until the very end, she gives a full portrayal of a patient. One that still enjoys life, one that weeps out of desperation and one that is innovative in finding Alzheimer-life-hacks. You truly feel for her. More than anything in the conversations Alice has with her daughter Lydia, played by Kristen Stewart. Those parts are the more subtle parts of Moore's role and give a clear insight in what it must be like to have Alzheimer's disease.
Kristen Stewart plays a very nice role herself too. I am not the biggest fan of her, but I feel like she definitely added something to movie. She showed a side of her, that I (in my limited knowledge of her filmography) have not seen of her. Especially in the last scene, when she connects to her mother through her acting, even though Alice at this point is quite far in the disease's progress. It was a beautiful moment and made a very nice ending. Again different from the book's, but more or less the same in spirit.
Husband John, eldest daughter Anna and son Tom are portrayed by Alec Baldwin (in his second consecutive role as Best Actress winner's husband), Kate Bosworth and Hunter Parrish respectively. All shedding a light on a different part of Alice's disease and how it affects her and them. Although they are outperformed by Kristen and most importantly of course Julianne, I felt that all of them formed a great cast together with a good chemistry that could pass for an actual family with a story that stretches beyond we get to see on screen.
The directing, music and editing helped to create a balanced movie that felt honest. I liked the blurry images and long, wide shots on beautiful locations such as the beach near the Howland family's holiday home, to underline the effects of the disease. Although I had read some complaints that the film is overly sentimental and dramatic at times, I did not feel like that myself at all. I actually thought the film was quite nuanced and just fine really and without a doubt one of the best I have seen so far this year. Yes, Still Alice is beautiful indeed and the Oscar for Julianne is more than deserved.