REVIEW: Still Alice

 

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Since it premiered at TIFF in September, you’ve heard the hype: Still Alice could finally win Julianne Moore an Oscar. The hype is justified.  Julianne is astonishing good playing a professor who has early on-set Alzheimer’s.  That’s no surprise. Julianne has an insanely long list of amazing performances. She’s been nominated for an Oscar 4 times (and probably should have about 5 more nominations beyond those), but she’s never gotten the gold. That should change this year.

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There’s nothing frivolous about Still Alice.  It’s a stripped down character study of a woman who starts to lose herself right before her (and our) eyes.  At under 100 minutes, every scene matters. Every moment matters, which is what Alice starts to feel as she begins to forget them.  It starts with losing her train of thought, then getting lost on a run, then forgetting how to make a family favourite dish.  Julianne masterfully takes away another piece of Alice in each scene, so we are watching a very slow deconstruction of a puzzle.

Julianne shows the character’s frustration while she keeps trying to maintain being a professor, a wife, and a Mom.  Alec Baldwin plays her husband (reuniting with Julianne after their very different relationship on 30 Rock), while Kate Bosworth, Hunter Parrish, and Kristen Stewart play her children.  Stewart has some nice moments alongside Julianne.  

There’s several heartbreaking scenes in the film, but the standout moment is a speech that Julianne gives to the Alzhemier’s Association.  As she has to highlight her speech as she says it, so she doesn’t repeat a line, Julianne is devastating.  Still Alice isn’t some outstanding achievement in filmmaking.  It’s a competently directed and written film, but it doesn’t make any effort to steal the spotlight away from its star.

The film does have a few issues. There’s a plot point that is set up early in the film, with Alice recording a video for herself for when she loses too much of her memory, and it’s brushed away unceremoniously in the third act.  I’m also undecided about the ending. I found it underwhelming at first, but it has interestingly stayed with me in the days following the film…and that’s the sign of a very good ending.

Grade:  A-


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