Starring: Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart
Directed by: Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland (Quinceañera)
Written by: Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland (Quinceañera)
At one point in “Still Alice,” Alice (Julianne Moore), a 50-year-old college professor suffering from a rare form of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, tells her husband John (Alec Baldwin) that she wishes she had cancer instead, citing the bravery people bestow upon cancer sufferers, wearing pink ribbons in their honor. Alzheimer’s only inspires pity and puts an immense burden on their loved ones, all while the sufferer’s life slips away one memory at a time. As a vibrant academic with a devoted husband, three grown children, and a personal life dedicated to reading, writing, and travel, its a fate the too-young Alice is horrified to confront.
Alice discovers her disease slowly at first, forgetting where she is during a jog. When her diagnosis is confirmed, Alice has the difficult task of not only breaking the news of her disease to her children (Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, and Hunter Parrish), but the chilling fact that this form of the disease is hereditary and there’s a test her children could take that comes with the knowledge that, if positive, there is a 100 percent certainty they too will develop the disease. What follows are scenes of Alice coming to grips with her fate, using her iPhone to quiz her memory daily and her webcam to record a video instructing her future self on how to commit suicide should her memory deteriorate too far.
Moore anchors the film with a heartbreaking performance, likely to finally nab her an Oscar, while Kristen Stewart–finally free of the banal “Twilight” franchise–reminds everyone she can be an engaging actress when given more to do than swoon. She gives the well-worn trope of the wayward daughter a little more depth than is written into the script. The rest of the cast, however, are as one-note as can be—which is fine, because this is Alice’s story, but it would be nice if a performer as intense and focused as Baldwin had more to do than play the sympathetic husband. Also, I can’t help but wonder if the film would have been more effective if Alice and her family weren’t well-to-do professionals with a beach house and university careers. Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease no matter your income level, but what if Alice were a middle-class woman who couldn’t just stop working? Just a suggestion, Hollywood.