Julianne Moore delivers an Oscar-winning performance as the eponymous Alice, a 50-year-old linguistics professor diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s.
This well-judged drama explores how the disease affects Alice and her husband John, sensitively played by Alec Baldwin. As 30 Rock fans will attest, Moore and Baldwin make a wonderful couple. Needless to say, their children (Kate Bosworth, Hunter Parrish and a particularly impressive Kristen Stewart) have great hair.
The film raises a number of tough questions: How would you cope if you or a loved one started to forget everything? What kind of pact with the devil has Julianne Moore made to look so good at 54? Why is Alec Baldwin’s head so massive? Seriously, the man looks like an Easter Island statue of Matt LeBlanc.
As one would expect given the subject matter, it’s quite a sad film. But it’s lit up by Moore’s glowing performance, which rightfully earned her an Oscar (though admirers of her brilliant work in Maps to the Stars will agree that they should have given her two). This cements her place as one of the best actors around, not to mention her political activism, atheism and amazing hair.
The camera seems transfixed on her performance, portraying Alice’s mental and physical deterioration with heartbreaking skill. The film is similarly unflinching, made up of intimate moments of quiet anguish. Lisa Genova’s source material is well handled by writing/directing duo Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, who are also married.
Glatzer has A.L.S (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), which worsened as filming began. Having lost the ability to speak and use his hands, Glatzer communicated on set by typing on an iPad using his big toe. This theme of communication (remember she’s a linguistics professor) is brought gently into focus in Still Alice.
The movie says with honesty that no matter how clever or well-educated you are, it could all just fade away. But love (as Buddy Holly sang) will not. The film has its flaws, but Moore has none. This is a moving drama with her deeply human performance at its enormous heart.