Alice Howland (Julianne Moore) is living the American dream. She has an apartment in New York on the Upper West Side and a house at the beach. She has three beautiful children – Anna (Kate Bosworth), Tom (Hunter Parrish), and Lydia (Kristen Stewart). She loves her job as professor of linguistics and is happily married to John (Alec Baldwin) who has an equally academic career. But there is an intruder nesting in amongst this perfectly constructed world. After a series of memory lapses, Alice Howland is diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 50.
Still Alice follows a straight trajectory of “the art of losing” through the eyes of a woman struggling to retain her identity. There is no easy way out for Moore as Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland’s direction tightly closes in on her throughout the film. As her reality begins to slip away, the people on screen quite literally dissipate into indistinguishable colours, leaving Alice in the forefront. Glazer’s and Westmoreland’s camerawork demands an expressive performance from Julianne Moore – and she delivers.
With nuance, Moore gradually captures how it feels for a person who is coping with cognitive decline. Alice, who sees her intellect as a definitive part of her identity, tries to remember words by doing brain exercises, but as her memory deteriorates so too do her many methods. It is the subtlety in the way that Moore visually expresses these changes that is most powerful. Even her tone slowly becomes detached as she articulates each word in the vein of an actress trying to remember her lines.
The problem with this adaptation of Lisa Genova’s 2007 novel is that it may be too perfect. There are no moments that reveal the physically ugly side of the disease albeit one scene in which Alice wets her pants because she can’t remember where the toilet is. The irony that Alice is a professor of linguistics is unnecessary. Emphasis on this throughout slightly cheapens the story, as it seems to place a higher significance on those who are working within an academic field.
While Bosworth, Parrish and the wooden Baldwin add little to the narrative, thankfully Stewart’s authenticity as a struggling actor breaks through the family artifice. Her relationship with Moore is one of the strongest points of the film. Still Alice does shine a rose-tinted light on the worst of the neurological disorders but, to its credit, at least the film aims to raise awareness of the horrific condition. For this, it is worthy of recognition.
Still Alice is a little too W.A.S.P but the authentic performances from Moore and Stewart manage to save the film from becoming Hollywood drivel.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Still Alice is released nationwide 6th March 2015.