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Julianne Moore is Unforgettable in “Still Alice”

{Image Credit: Sony Pictures Classics}

Hollywood has long been fascinated with bringing a tinge of real life to film in hopes to connect with audiences. While it is a fundamental element in successful film-making, it’s also prised by many who value the subject matter in hopes to spark a discussion that is important.

Based on the 2007 New York Times best-selling novel of the same name by neuroscientist and writer Lisa Genova, Still Alice is more than just a film about the struggle of Alzheimer’s. In many ways, it is a harrowing tale of family, love and the effects on our lives from this debilitating disease.

Focusing on Dr. Alice Howland (Julianne Moore), the film finds us getting to know an accomplished professor of linguistics who is happily married to Dr. John Howland (Alec Baldwin) with three grown children (Kate Bosworth, Hunter Parrish, and Kristen Stewart). When Alice begins to forget words and people, nor recognize her surroundings, she is then diagnosed with “Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease”. It comes as a shock to the barely 50 year-old Alice and her close-knit family as the case is rare for someone of her age. As she comes to terms with the diagnosis day-by-day, her family finds their bonds thoroughly tested as they reflect on the situation and help Alice in her struggle.

In what may sound like the premise of a Lifetime movie, Still Alice is not some simple made-for-TV film. Both beautiful and terrifying in its vivid and moving depiction of a life with early-onset Alzheimer’s, this film rises above the network cliché with its delicate screenplay and distinctive performances.

Earlier this week, actress Julianne Moore spoke to Variety and shared how she spent four months researching the disease in order to depict it honestly and accurately. And for what it’s worth, she did. It’s no wonder she won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama earlier this week for her performance, and earned an Academy Award nomination for the role yesterday. Moore gives an immaculate performance of a woman who is mourning her mortality with the awareness of her fate. In many ways, it’s a cruel irony for her and the many others in her shoes who understand just what’s ahead of them, but have no real response into changing the outcome.

There is a scene in the film where Alice is so angry and begins crying and telling her husband John how she wishes she had cancer instead because while she could accept her body failing on her, she’s enraged that her mind would betray her. But later on, she puts on a heroic face and shares how she’s “not suffering” but “struggling”, even though she knows deep-down that it’s not true. She is suffering and while she has technology to help her stay on track, the disease is progressing faster than she imagined.

{Image Credit: Sony Pictures Classics}

Moore plays this character with tremendous heart and realism. Watching her in a role like this is not just moving, but because she plays it so faultlessly, you can’t help but feel that you know her and are a part of her in every scene. Because of that, you know Alice hasn’t really changed—it’s just her disease that’s keeping her from living normally. She is the same Alice we were introduced to and Moore’s ability to extend and bring to life that illustration of a woman knowingly losing a battle every day is an empathetic one. In all honesty, it would be a shame if Moore didn’t walk away with the Oscar for Best Actress come February. She is truly unforgettable in this role and shines in what might be one of her best films in the past decade.

Supported by a wonderfully talented cast, Still Alice has achieved some great casting. Alec Baldwin as Alice’s husband, John is an incredibly complementary role to Moore’s. While he plays a charming and loving spouse looking out for his family and the well-being of his wife, there is a great sense of genuine vulnerability emanating from Baldwin that he plays impeccably well as he (and the audience) watch his wife descend into the dark chasm of this disease.

In what may seem like a shock to some, Kristen Stewart (known for the Twilight films and a slew of Razzie Awards) is quite remarkable in this film. Playing the role of youngest daughter, Lydia, an aspiring actress trying to make it in Los Angeles, Stewart is modest in this role and comes off uber natural in her portrayal of a worrisome, yet caring and understanding daughter. Looked upon as the black sheep of the family and someone whom her mother is very hard on, Stewart plays Lydia quietly but with enough zest to keep you engaged. Though introverted, she balances out the tone of Kate Bosworth’s portrayal of Anna, Alice’s eldest daughter. The two young actresses bring vibrancy and color to the film with their characters’ opposing reactions regarding their mother’s diagnosis. Hunter Parrish as the middle child, Tom, plays the caring son seamlessly, but it’s a shame to not see much of him as he is talented and plays what little role he has very well.

Still Alice is a modernized and crisp melodrama that is bound to not just have you catch a glimpse of the severity of this disease, but leave you in deep reflection and tears. Much of the film’s moments made me believe more than one Kleenex packet was necessary after a film like this. Directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, the two have created more than just a tear-jerker for the winter season. The directing duo have filmed a candid analysis through the eyes of one woman and this degenerating disease that doesn’t give up.

While the film is incredibly poignant, it’s a reminder that Alzheimer’s needs to be addressed now. With the disease not as much in the spotlight as others, it’s one to pay attention to. With more than 5 million Americans living with the disease and being the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, it’s time to open up the discussion and bring further awareness to this malady. The film may look at Alzheimer’s from Alice’s perspective and a rather rare form of the disease, but in reality, she isn’t the only one suffering. Every sixty-seven seconds someone in the U.S. develops the disease, and almost two-thirds of Americans with the disease are in fact women. While the film is a work of fiction based on studies, in all honesty, it’s wise to understand that Alzheimer’s disease is a lot worse than what you imagine and see in this film.

Both frightening and powerful, Still Alice is a significantly beautiful film and one that should be seen this season.

Still Alice is in theaters now and is released through Sony Pictures Classics.

For more information on Still Alice, visit the film’s official website and follow Sony Pictures Classics on Twitter and Facebook. To read up on Alzheimer’s disease and learn more, visit the Alzheimer’s Association.

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  1. Julianne Moore is Unforgettable in “Still Alice” | westlifebunny - January 21, 2015

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