We have seen some amazing stories told on the big screen, but it’s still refreshing every once in a while to come across a film that is grounded in the real world; a story that’s just about life and the problems real people face. Every once in a while another one of these films comes around and provides a welcome change of pace to the continuous stream of blockbusters, and with the release of Still Alice, we have been given that refreshing deviation from the norm.
Still Alice, directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, is the story of Alice Howland(Julianne Moore), a highly accomplished UCLA linguistics professor. She is happily married to her husband John(Alec Baldwin), and has three grown children(Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, and Hunter Parrish). She lives a happy life that includes teaching courses at UCLA, and traveling to other universities and giving speeches. Everything in Alice’s life is going well until she finds herself beginning to forget things. Worried, she goes to see a neurologist, who after a few visits diagnoses her with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Shaken by the news, Alice must then learn, along with her family, how to deal with the disease and try to hold on to whom she is and the things in life she cares about.
The best part about Still Alice is the acting that takes place throughout the course of the movie. This is a movie that is firmly grounded in the real world, with no crazy special effects, or highly creative to hook the audience’s attention. Therefore, this is the type of movie that must be carried by the performances of its actors and it succeeds in doing exactly that. This movie holds the audience’s attention throughout and absolutely all the credit for that feat goes to Julianne Moore. She quite possibly delivers the best performance of her career, putting on a show as Alice Howland. The whole movie centers on her character and how she handles her disease; it’s a character study that displays how even the brightest individuals can so easily become crippled by the terrible disease. The way that she is able to progress through the stages of Alzheimer’s in the story is very impressive, seemingly becoming a completely different person by the end of the movie than she was in the beginning. Her character development is incredible, as she is changes so dramatically over the course of the film, but at the same time is completely believable. Still Alice was designed to succeed or fail along with Julianne Moore’s performance and she is up to the task, holding the audience’s attention with her gripping portrayal the entire time.
The rest of the cast does a solid job performing their duties as supporting pieces to Julianne Moore’s supreme puzzle. Alec Baldwin does a great job playing John, Alice’s husband who loves Alice immensely and struggles to witness the suffering that she is going through. He is able to interact well with Moore and you can tell the two characters really care about each other. Throughout the first half of the film he serves as Alice’s main companion while she combats her illness. Then during the second half of the film Kristen Stewart takes over as Alice’s main companion, as Lydia, Alice’s youngest daughter. Stewart does pretty good in the role, being able to play the role convincingly and create another solid relationship for Alice as we witness her continue to slip into the grips of her disease.
Other positives of the movie are its simple, yet effective storyline and its creative use of visuals. The story isn’t overly complex, simply showcasing real life situations and how Alice goes about handling them while confronted with her disease. It is a premise that people can relate to and sympathize with. The visuals in the movie were also very well done. There were many scenes with Alice where she would appear very clear, but everything else in the shot would appear blurred. This is symbolic of her living in a world that was becoming foreign and unrecognizable to her because of her disease. It was a very smart tactic and it definitely added to the power of the scenes in which it was implemented.
The main problem that the movie suffered from was its pacing of the timeline. Being a movie about the progression of Alzheimer’s, the film had to go through its plot at a fairly quick pace to cover a large timeline, but it just felt too quick while watching. Months and years would go by so fast at times and it could occasionally be a little hard to keep up with where they were in film’s timeline. Overall, Still Alice is a solid film about real life problems that people will be able to relate to. I give it 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it to be seen at least once for its subject matter and the incredible performance put on by Julianne Moore.