Saturday, January 17, 2015

Still Alice

Directed by: Richard Glatzer
Screenplay: Richard Glatzer
Cast: Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, Hunter Parish, Kate Bosworth, Shane McRae, Seth Gilliam

Review by James Colt Harrison 

Although there might be a tendency to label this film as a “disease of the week” TV movie, it goes beyond superficial medical analysis and gets to the heart of a very serious matter. Also, it is shot so simply and beautifully by cinematographer Denis Lenior you may think it is a television show, but he captures the Hamptons in a direct and no-nonsense way.

Director Richard Glatzer wrote the screenplay with Wash Westmoreland from the original novel by Lisa Genova. The book gripped readers with its straightforward story and a personal experience of the author. Glatzer and Westmoreland have continued that simplicity to the storytelling in the movie. Your heartstrings will be plucked like a harp being played in Heaven by angels. Yes, it’s a tear-jerking event of the highest order, but both men and women will embrace the story and the object of it as played so magnificently by Julianne Moore.

Miss Moore has the tricky job of playing a character (Dr. Alice Howland, a linguistics professor) who is beautiful, intelligent and at the top of her career in such an engaging way it elicits our sympathy and admiration. At only age 50, she is diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer’s disease. She struggles with the disease and is fearful of forgetting all that she has accomplished as well as mentally losing her beloved family in the process. The subject is dealt in a tender way, and husband Dr. John Howland (Alec Baldwin) becomes the rock on which can lean for support and love. Baldwin leaves his usual brash and abrasive personality at home and does some of the best work he has done in years. He’s an actor of some depth and shows great loyalty to his wife Alice during a time of great crisis. As a prominent doctor himself, he must continue his own career path while at the same time understanding Alice’s need for recognition and continued validation as a person of intelligence.

Kristen Stewart (the Twilight series) plays Alice’s youngest daughter Lydia. For the first time she shows an ability to do some good acting. Stewart is a surprise with her repartee with her mother. She may at last shake off the “Miss Glum” nickname because of her inability to smile or show any emotion whatsoever. In this film she is cracking her eggshell protection and is showing some feelings.

Julianne Moore has struck gold by being cast in a tour-de-force acting role that any actress would give their left arm to play. Ms. Moore did not have to give up any arms because she caught the producer’s and director’s attention with her superb acting. She is the entire picture  and dominates all her scenes even against such superlative actors as Baldwin, Stewart, and Kate Bosworth (daughter Anna).

Rightfully so, it was recently announced Julianne Moore has been nominated for an Oscar as Best Actress. She is up against some other actresses who delivered terrific performances as well. We shall see the results in February when the gold statuettes are handed out to the winners. Will Moore be one of them? We think it is possible. Our money is on Moore---unless Rosamund Pike comes out from behind for Gone Girl and snatches it away. 

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