Julianne Moore is the focal point of Still Alice and she is the reason the film is worth seeing. The
picture itself is earnest and well-made, but it remains earthbound while its
leading lady soars to greatness.
Moore plays a highly-respected professor of linguistics at
Columbia University who shares a busy life in Manhattan with her equally
accomplished husband (Alec Baldwin). Their three grown children are out in the
world making their own lives, although Moore has little regard for daughter
Kristen Stewart’s ambition to succeed as an actress in Los Angeles. (Their
somewhat prickly relationship offers Stewart some of the best material she’s
ever had to work with.)
A series of small but disconcerting events lead Moore to see
her doctor, who gives her the worst possible news: she is suffering from
early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease. He explains that exceptionally smart people
like her are able to mask the symptoms for a while because their brains are so
nimble…but there is no avoiding the inevitable.
Given the built-in drama that comes with this pernicious
ailment, writer-directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland take a
matter-of-fact approach to their material. Like Moore, they are not interested
in High Drama; this is no Dark Victory.
Working from a novel by neuroscientist Lisa Genova, they explore the impact of
the degenerative disease on their heroine’s career, marriage, and relationship
with her children; the outcome is not always what you might expect.
Moore never indulges in histrionics. She allows us to
vicariously experience what her character is going through at every stage of
the story and reveals the actress’ diligent research into the disease she is
charged with portraying. Few performers could pull this off with such aplomb but
then, few actresses are as gifted as Julianne Moore.