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Awards Season Reviews: Still Alice

The film in focus for my next review is almost single handedly being driven to the Oscars by its leading lady, yep its Still Alice. 

Still Alice, based on the book of the same name by Lisa Genova, tells the story of Dr. Alice Howland (Julianne Moore), a renowned linguistics professor at Columbia University. At 50 years old Alice has raised three children, had a widely successful career and a loving marriage to husband John (Alec Baldwin) but when words start to escape her and she gets lost around the city she lives in, a visit to the doctor reveals devastating news. Alice is diagnosed with an early onset of Alzheimer’s disease that has a rare and 50/50 chance of being passed on to her children and her life slowly crumbles beneath her feet.

All of its realism makes Still Alice a tough one to watch, aided by Julianne Moore’s on point performance as an Alzheimer’s sufferer. Everything that Alice has worked for is stripped away at an uncontrollable pace and she struggles to keep up with the changes. This is all reflected in Moore’s performance. In each scene, Moore seems to strip something away from the character, be it the ability to focus, a confident step now a clumsy one or a confusion on something once familiar. She’s our point of view to the awful disease and it’s a scarily honest portrayal.

At one point Alice, unable to find the bathroom in her own house, wets herself in front of her husband. The harsh realities of this awful disease are not glazed over or ignored and it all hits hard, thanks to Moore. Most of the other characters fall by the way side, baring Kristen Stewart who plays Alice’s youngest daughter Lydia. Her previous performances haven’t always been critically acclaimed (far from it) but she’s actually pretty good in this one. She’s the only one of Alice’s three adult children who continues to see her mother as her mother, as the same woman she’s always been and not a patient. This isn’t just reliant on Stewart’s performance and the writing, but I think it’s mainly down to the chemistry between Moore and Stewart. I would never have thought they’d of worked so well together.

Baldwin plays a good ‘loving from a distance’ husband who struggles with wanting to fulfill his career and look after the woman he loves. Kate Bosworth plays Anna, the only child to be a definite carrier of her mothers disease, thus making her incredibly resentful towards her mothers illness, remaining detached from her for the rest of the film. But the only person who gets the nod is Moore and rightfully so. This film is all her.

Still Alice’s hauntingly honest approach towards such a daunting subject is what makes the film so admirable, but its perhaps the book it’s adapted from that deserves the credit for this, which is why the film itself hasn’t received any best picture, director, screenplay or any other nominations. But with Moore winning best leading actress at the Screen Actors Guild Awards she’s a significant choice for the Oscar.


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