Still Alice begins right in the heart of its subject. University professor Alice Howland (Julianne Moore) is in a restaurant, and it is her birthday. Her husband John (Alec Baldwin) is there, and her children are there as well. Everyone seems to be having a good time, but at some point during the meal Alice is having trouble finding the right word to finish a phrase. It goes unnoticed by others at the table, but we can detect the fear in Alice’s eyes. Later, while jogging, Alice is suddenly confused and lost. The tests from a recent visit to the doctor confirm the dreaded diagnosis: ‘Early onset familial Alzheimer’s disease’, a rare form that strikes younger people (from 50 to 65). But then comes the real shocker. ‘Familial’ Alzheimer is hereditary, and she may have passed it on to some of her children. Oldest daughter, Anna (Kate Bosworth), is an attorney who is married to Charlie (Shane McRae). Her son Tom (Hunter Parrish) is a medical student. And her youngest daughter, Lydia (Kristen Stewart) has made the choice to be an actress despite Alice’s objections. When Alice and John tell their kids the bad news, the scene is done with restraints from all the actors involved. The disease comes to Alice’s life drop by drop, and affects everyone in the family. A renown linguistic scholar, Alice is finding it hard to remember which course she has to deliver, and is dismissed from her job. She sometimes does not recognize her own children. And there is an awful moment when Alice cannot find the bathroom in her own house. Julianne Moore has never been so compelling to watch. Still Alice is a clinical film. It shows what happens to an Alzheimer patient step by step. Moore is in every scenes, and it becomes more intense and complex as the disease evolves. How does an actress takes on a part that has so many scenes of intense despair, without falling into tearjecking facilities, and making it seems like she could pull it off again, and again, and again? Moore is well supported by a talented cast. We get a very good turn by Baldwin. Kristen Stewart’s moments with Moore are the best in the film. At times co-directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, show Alice in the foreground with everything around her out of focus. That is quite an efficient way to show things through Alice’s eyes. To her, the world is a blur.
You should know… Co-directors and co-screenwriters, Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland are a married same-sex couple. Wash Westmoreland previously worked as an award-winning gay porn director (as Wash West). Richard Glatzer is living with ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or Charcot disease) and some critics have suggested a connection between his own battle with illness and the raw, honest depiction of illness in the film.
And the Oscar went to… Moore finally won the Oscar after her fifth try (She should have won in 2002 for Todd Haynes’s Far from heaven).