Directed by Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland
Written by Lisa Genova (novel), Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland
Stars Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, Hunter Parrish
Julianne Moore’s cutting a swath through awards season for a film that stretches her beyond any she’s done in her career. In Still Alice, adapted from the novel by Lisa Genova, Moore plays a 55 year old linguistics professor wonders why she’s become forgetful of keys, words, day and time, and even where she is. Her doctor gives her a surprising diagnosis – Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease. No mistake.
She courageously breaks the news to the family without emotion. Her husband (Baldwin) and children (Stewart, Bosworth, and Parrish) are mystified and defiant. Surely, it’s a mistake. And equally shocking is news that the children’s odds of getting the disease are high. It’s interesting to watch their reactions then and sometime later, once reality settles in.
Alice struggles through the stages of her deterioration with resolute calm. She tries to “be normal” for her family’s sake but before long, normal function is a dim memory. They move her out to the beach house where she and Stewart take long walks, talking, bonding through this tragedy by creating intimacy and making memories.
With the disease’ acceleration comes loss of dignity. One of the film’s wrenching scenes is Baldwin comforting and changing her when she loses bladder control assuring her it’s okay. She still recognises that it’s not, but can’t fit her thoughts together or help herself.
The film is pretty harrowing. Moore’s performance is strong and naturalistic, and she seems just right for it. Other major actresses turned the part down, but Moore jumped in. She researched the disease, developed relationships with sufferers and threw caution to the wind. The result is a liberated, full throttle performance.
Kristen Stewart does herself proud as Alice’ rebellious daughter who decides to move home from Los Angeles to care for her mother. It’s an act of kindness that can only be understood through Stewart’s portrayal of the girl who moves from bitter distance to her mother’s crutch. Stewart’s especially impressive.
Baldwin and Moore have worked together before and she suggested him for the part. Their chemistry is powerful, and the story depends on it. There is never a moment’s doubt that he will hand over his life to her as long as she survives.
Co-writer and co-director Richard Glatzer suffers from ALS and can’t speak. He communicated on-set through a text-to-speech app. He and Washburn, his life partner, nursed the project from the beginning, eager to tear the lid off a topic that is rarely discussed.
Still Alice is hard to watch especially is you’ve dealt with a similar real life situation; you know there is no good outcome. But as population grows, so does the number of sufferers. It’s time a brave film like this shed light on a dark corner in our society – a disease people are reluctant to talk or even think about.