Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Run Time: 1 hour 41 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Julianne Moore, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, Alec Baldwin, Hunter Parrish
Based on the novel by Lisa Genova
Directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland (The Last of Robin Hood, The Fluffer)
It's funny how things work out. A few years back, I was flabbergasted that Julianne Moore's performance in The Kids Are All Right was overlooked by the Academy and the majority of year-end award institutions. In that film, most of the attention went to Moore's co-star, Annette Bening, who ended up landing an Oscar nomination for her incredibly over-the-top, showy role, as opposed to Moore's quiet, under-stated yet powerful performance. To me, it was an absolute travesty that Julianne Moore didn't earn at least a nomination back then. Flash forward to today, and Moore is now finally primed and ready to win an Oscar....the rub? She is about to win it for her incredibly over-the-top, showy role in Still Alice (opening today).
It sure is funny how things come full circle. Moore deserves to be an Oscar winning actress. I just wish it was going to be for a different role. Apparently, going overboard is the thing that Oscar-winning performances are made of.
I shouldn't have to preface this, but I will: Alzheimer's Disease is no joke, and I have the utmost respect and sympathy for those afflicted with this horrible disease. Criticizing Still Alice is not a criticism of the diagnosis, nor is meant to disrespect or downplay the millions of people, their family and friends, who deal with this affliction as a regular part of their lives.
But the contrivances in Still Alice come on thick and heavy from the get-go. Moore plays Alice, a successful linguistics professor, wife and mother. Her loving husband (Alec Baldwin) and her children (Hunter Parrish and Kristen Stewart) are all leading their own lives when Alice begins showing symptoms of early onset Alzheimer's. The disease gradually gets worse and worse, as it tends to do.
It's not that Moore doesn't give a good performance - as do co-stars, namely Baldwin and Stewart - but she is trapped in a soapy, made-for-TV-style melodrama. She pours it on thick, the filmmakers tell us when to feel emotion, and everything plays out about exactly how one would expect them to in a movie such as this. The creators of this thinly-veiled tear-jerker don't make Alice a waitress, or even a regular-old teacher. They make her a linguistic expert...just so that the contrived disease will pack that much more of an emotional punch.
This is at least watchable melodrama though. It's just that Moore hits every note one would expect along the way. There is nothing too deep or too hard to digest. It's a film designed to inform us that Alzheimer's can happen to any of us, and much earlier than we think. It will attempt massive tugs at your heart-strings. Well, mission accomplished.
Beyond that, Still Alice is about as forgettable a movie as they come.
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