Dir: Richard Glatzer & Wash Westmoreland (2014)
Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland direct their lead actress towards almost sure-fire favourite Oscar glory with this well made piece of über dramatic awards fodder; Somewhat simply made and plainly shot, Still Alice finds itself in that unavoidable category which swings around each year; Totally passable films with a big heart and incredible performances. Julianne Moore, the woman who should be up for two gongs this year (the other is for her killer performance in Cronenberg’s Maps to The Stars, BTW) amongst being snubbed many other times (Magnolia, Boogie Nights, Far From Heaven, Safe, The Kids Are Alright to name just a few): She plays Alice Howland, an outgoing and driven linguistic professor diagnosed coping with early onset Alzheimer’s at the age of 50.
Glatzer and Westmoreland’s film (from Lisa Genova’s novel) perhaps draws on Glatzer’s own struggle with ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease; An experience which lends spades of pathos to the frequent charged dinner table scenes during Still Alice. Moore’s Howland at first hides her sickness from her husband (a typically gruff, distant but admittedly great Alec Baldwin) and her three grown children. Kate Bosworth, Kristen Stewart and Hunter Parrish all feature to varying degrees and effectiveness, with Glatzer and Westmoreland eventually paring Moore with Stewart’s Lydia, her most artistic offspring, in the films final moments.
Though it must be said that Stewart shines in the films final reel, Moore drives everything. Her intensive knowledge and success at playing frayed character’s is clearly evident here, making her realisations of he own slipping mind completely heartbreaking especially in the Bergman like beach house sequences; But Still Alice suffers for the most part in its made for television mode. Drama and melodrama mix into that murky grey area all too much but the honesty of Moore’s brilliantly underplayed performance and Glatzer and Westmoreland’s intent to illustrate a devastating disease will win you over in the end. It’s geared primarily and often shamelessly towards easy tear jerking moments but the films heart is big, bold and beautiful, even if the film isn’t.