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Still Alice

Julianne Moore apparently has her best shot ever at Oscar this year, and I’d really like to see her win. That being said, I hate it, when the Academy uses its statues as a “career achievement” award, instead of honoring the actual best performance of the year. But I appease my misgivings with the fact that Ms. Moore is actually quite good here. She’s the sole reason to experience “Still Alice”, a film that never manages to rise above its procedural, television movie blueprint. Spare me the “throws a light on the horrible scourge of Alzheimer’s” nonsense. It bestows the film with the unnecessary mantle of “important”, and unjustly forgives it for not simply being better. Hey, it’s okay to like Moore, but be lukewarm on the movie.

Dr. Alice Howland (Ms. Moore) is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease, at the age of 50. Her loving husband, John (an adequate Alec Baldwin), is also a doctor, and he provides her with support and wisdom as they initially attempt to combat the illness. But Alice soon realizes that she is entering a slow, but steady, decline. Forgetting where she’s going, as well as not knowing where things are, soon progresses to failing to locate the bathroom in her own home (leading to the poignant scene of Moore peeing herself–too soon after seeing Robert Duvall humbled quite a bit more messily, in the terrible “The Judge”.). When things get too difficult for John to handle on his own, it becomes the job of Alice’s youngest daughter Lydia (an okay-I-guess, Kristen Stewart), to step up in place of her older siblings, and provide Mom with her needed care.

Too much of “Still Alice” is simply too clean and average, as it begs to be more cutting. People in my own life have struggled with this disease, and it’s seldom this orderly. The movie is co-written and co-directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, and neither appears more interested, and/or able, in supplying this story with more oomph. So, it rapidly begins to stink of the odor of annual prestige drama awards bait. Well, it worked last year with Matthew McConaughey in “Dallas Buyers Club”, so why not? Moore rises above the production, carries the film single-handedly, and you’re never less than enthralled watching her. Would I have preferred her to win for “Boogie Nights” in 1997 or “Far from Heaven” in 2002? Sure. But I’ll settle for a “Still Alice” victory for Moore. She’s highly memorable, even while the movie is not.

Grade:  C+

next review up:  “Nightcrawler”

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2 comments on “Still Alice

  1. Good review Mark. A very effective movie, even if it does sometime feel like it was made-for-TV.

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