A lot of the buzz surrounding “Still Alice” revolves around Julianne Moore’s Oscar-worthy performance as a woman struggling with Alzheimer’s. And upon viewing there is no denying that Moore’s performance is the film’s winning factor. However, that is not to say that “Still Alice” is not a well-made film, because it is. Shot for less than five million dollars over the course of twenty-three days “Still Alice” is a spirituously-beautiful film that casts an intimate look into one of the most devastating diseases of contemporary society.
[“Still Alice” is in theaters now and stars Kristen Stewart]
Moore’s Alice Howland is an alpha linguistics professor who leads a fulfilling life both personally and professionally. Having spent a lifetime dedicated to the studying of languages and communication, Alice finds herself gradually losing her memory and her bearings at the age of fifty. Words begin to slip away from her, she gets lost jogging around the campus of the school where she works. Alice soon finds out that she is afflicted with early-onset Alzheimer’s, which causes her cognitive functions to deteriorate despite her young age. In the face of a disease that she cannot overcome, Alice struggles to remain herself and to face the impending impairments with resolution, grace, and support from her family.
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It is an understatement to say that Moore is the life of “Still Alice.” She injects her character with a relatable and endearing quality, making it easy for the audience to be enamored with her. Therefore, the transformation that Alice goes through, from an independent, resourceful woman to a woman slowly succumbing to dementia, is even more heartrending to watch. Alec Baldwin and Kristen Stewart, who play Alice’s husband and youngest daughter, respectively, deliver fine performances. In fact, the relationship between Moore’s and Stewart’s characters and the fact that Alzheimer’s actually brings mother and daughter closer together is one of the highlights of the film. The scenes with Moore and Stewart alone also provides “Still Alice,” a film whose subject matter is understandably dispiriting to watch at times, with rare moments of hope and strength.
Like it titular heroine, Alice, the film “Still Alice” thrives on the eloquence of words. Alice herself identifies articulation to be a key attribute that has defined her in the past, and because of this, the gradual impairment of speech is especially hard on her. Two of the most moving scenes of the film rely on the power of words and the agony that follows the loss of such power. However, the eloquence is not limited to words alone: the cinematography and scoring of the film expressively capture Alice’s discombobulation and the worsening of her symptoms. The means by which this is achieved may be modest, such as a simple out-of-focus shot or a tracking shot that follows the back of Moore’s head as she steps forward into an increasingly disorienting setting, but the outcome is sensually and emotionally effective.
This film’s ability to be compelling without being over-indulgent, both in terms of its treatment of an inherently melodramatic subject matter and its cinematic artistry, is perhaps one of the biggest virtues of “Still Alice.” This is a film that manages to exercise artistic restraint without affecting the compassion and admiration it evidently holds towards its heroine.