Still Alice will make Julianne Moore hard to forget come award season.
Based on a novel by Lisa Genova, Still Alice stars Julianne Moore as Dr. Alice Howland, a renowned doctor and professor of linguistics. One day, while giving an presentation at a conference, Alice forgets part of her presentation. At first, Alice doesn’t think much of it but as time goes on, she continues to forget more and more. After a couple weeks of noticing that her memory isn’t as sharp as it used to be, Alice goes to a doctor to get evaluated for memory loss. It isn’t long before the holiday season that Alice finds out her test results and how these results will change her and her family’s lives forever.
I was lucky enough to attend the World Premiere of Still Alice at the Toronto International Film Festival back in September and prior to the premiere, I had no idea what to expect. I went to see the film simply because I am a big fan of Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, and Kristen Stewart. With that being said, I was incredibly shocked by Still Alice and never thought that something with no pre-festival buzz would see Julianne Moore receiving a standing ovation not just once, but twice within the span of 15 minutes.
Truth be told, everything about Still Alice works. While it is a very simple and quiet film, it packs an incredible punch while handling the subject matter with an incredible amount of respect. It is well acted, well directed, well written, and will be a film that will stick with you for weeks, if not months after seeing it. This is hands down the best film that I have ever seen revolving around alzheimer’s. Its raw and realistic while being completely engrossing. This entire film makes you feel as though you are watching someone from your own family go through this and as it goes on you will feel exactly what the characters are feeling on-screen. In other words, Still Alice is the scariest film you will see all year.
Julianne Moore is the glue that holds everything together. This is without a doubt the best performance of her career and that is saying a lot given the fact that she has starred in over 55 feature length films to date. Over the span of 22 years, Moore has proven that she can take on almost any role in any genre but by playing Alice Howland, she will finally take home the Oscar. Alice is a brilliant woman that has spent her entire life studying linguistics, while being a mother to three children and a supportive wife to her husband John. All this combined is what makes her story all the more powerful and heartbreaking.
During the film’s perfect 99 minute runtime, we as audience members see this brilliant mind deteriorate right in front of our very eyes. Moore’s performance is raw and full of emotion. Honestly, it feels like Moore spent years prepping for this role and she brings to life a character that we truly believe is suffering from alzheimer’s. She nails all the struggles from early on when she is first experience the memory loss to later when she completely loses her mind. Moore’s mannerisms are dead on and she makes us feel for her character all the way through. Moore shines when she is surrounded by her talented cast members, however, it is when she is alone where she shines the brightest. There is a one scene in particular where Alice records a video on her Macbook that is incredibly powerful. This one scene will stick with most long after they leave the theater.
While this is without a doubt Moore’s baby, I must make mention of how blown away I was by Kristen Stewart in this film. Stewart plays Alice’s youngest daughter Lydia and I thought the time that these two shared together on-screen were absolutely fantastic. The scenes these two shared on-screen were the strongest moments of the film outside of the scenes where Moore is struggling with the disease on her own. There are several great moments with these two including a scene earlier in the film where the two meet for lunch to discuss Lydia’s life as she is struggling to get a job in Los Angeles. This is a great mother and daughter scene showing a concerning mother yet supportive mother trying to believe in her daughter’s dream. Later in the film, the two share a powerful scene involving Skype that ultimately leads to even more emotional scene later in the film.
A lot of critics and general filmgoers have written Kristen Stewart off as a hack actress who will always be known as Bella Swan from those teenybopper Twilight films. I don’t know what it is about her but I always dug her as an actress. I loved her in Adventureland, Welcome to the Rileys, and The Runaways but this is without a doubt her best performance to date. I think many will see her in this film and realize that she can be incredible with the right material. Stewart is one of those actresses that will continue to make independent films and will prove over and over again that she is a force to be reckoned with.
As far as direction, Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland have crafted one remarkable film. There are so many shots throughout the film that make us feel for the struggle that Alice and her family are facing. There are a lot of quiet moments within this film but they work so well. Genova along with Glatzer and Westmoreland crafted something that showcased how much a disease can affect a life and those that are apart of it. Their film shows this by creating a realistic world with a realistic story and realistic characters. The story here never feels forced nor does it ever seem unrealistic. The story instead is tough and rather complex but is told from a very personal perspective. As someone who sees over 200 films per year, you can always tell when a film connects with those behind the camera and in front of it; this is definitely one of those films.
All in all, I never expected to walk out of Still Alice and say, “wow, that was one of the best films of the year, if not the best film of the year.” Still Alice is one emotional roller coaster of a film. Everything about this film is near perfection and it is the most honest and thought-provoking film ever made about alzheimer’s. It is something that will not only make you think but will make you think about your life and if you are living it to the fullest. I can’t wait to see this film get all the recognition that it deserves come award season and will be anxiously awaiting Moore to take to the stage as she wins the prize for Best Actress in a Motion Picture at this year’s Oscar ceremony.
MovieManMenzel’s final rating for Still Alice is a 9.5 out of 10.