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article imageReview: Julianne Moore earns more than just an Oscar nom in ‘Still Alice’ Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jan 22, 2015 in Entertainment
Julianne Moore delivers an outstanding performance in ‘Still Alice,’ in which she portrays a woman diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s.
North America has reached a stage in which most of its population is or will be seniors in a few short years. Thus the concerns of aging are becoming more mainstream, including retirement, nursing homes, health care and diseases that target the elderly. For many, Alzheimer’s is an affliction reserved for the aged and something dreaded but almost expected to occur after a certain age. But in a few less common cases it doesn’t wait. Still Alice is about a woman in her 40s who begins to forget.
Alice (Julianne Moore) is a university linguistics professor, the mother of three grown children and the wife of an ambitious and successful scientist. Her life is virtually perfect —until she begins to forget small details like sections of her lecture or her regularly running route. Not wanting to alarm her family she covertly seeks the advice of a specialist who informs her she has early-onset Alzheimer’s. Alice’s decline is steep and within months she is in the advanced stages of the disease and unable to be left alone for long periods. Her youngest daughter, Lydia (Kristen Stewart), an aspiring actress with whom she hasn’t always seen eye-to-eye comes home to care for her in the interim, which ends up actually healing their strained relationship.
In a word, this film is terrifying — in a good way. Its realistic portrayal of Alice’s experiences is undeniably depressing, but remarkably expressive. This is owed to an exceptionally well-written script based on the book of the same name and more so to a stellar performance by Moore. Her portrayal of Alice is extraordinarily genuine as her character’s vibrant personality slowly drifts away until she is largely left to stare at everything with confusion often through vacant eyes. There are scenes that are just sad, such as witnessing her forget her children’s names, and there are others that are absolutely heartbreaking, such as watching her repeatedly try to finish a critical task but losing her way each time before it’s completed.
It’s not often the story of someone with Alzheimer’s is seen from the perspective of the victim. But Alice is shown through the diseases many stages while the film explores her feelings and thoughts about its repercussions to the extent that while she’s healthy she even records a video for her to watch when she’s reached a more advanced stage of the illness. A film dealing with this subject can easily fall prey to the pitfalls of appearing to be nothing more than a bigger budget Lifetime movie-of-the-week, but it never falters for an instant.
Alec Baldwin plays Alice’s husband, John, who has trouble dealing with his wife’s loss of independence. Acting primarily as a weekend husband, the idea of not being able to continue focusing primarily on his career, or worse having to put off an opportunity for advancement, are things he’s not prepared or equipped to handle. Conversely, Stewart’s character is the only member of Alice’s family who tries to understand what she’s going through rather than manage it. Lydia’s personality doesn’t seem like a far stretch from how we’ve seen or heard Stewart behave in interviews, but that doesn’t diminish her contribution to the picture.
This year marks Moore’s fourth Oscar nomination, but it could definitely be the year she finally takes the statue home as she is the foundation for this film’s effortless portrayal of an incredibly difficult subject.
Directors: Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland
Starring: Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin and Kristen Stewart
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