I was slightly trepidatious to watch “Still Alice.” The apprehension was not because of Julianne Moore. In fact, I’d probably watch her reciting the phone book in a black and white film that’s especially dim in brightness. No, it was because of Alec Baldwin and Kristen Stewart.
As a film school graduate, I was constantly droned with the lesson that one cannot let their like or dislike of a certain actor deter them from watching a particular film. I mean, not everyone thought Vivien Leigh was the best choice to star in Gone With the Wind, and, well, we all know that one turned out.
Once I put my disdain for Baldwin and Stewart on the shelf, I decided to just focus on Moore in all of her glorious skills and talents as a purveyor of emotion, feeling, and depth. The film, which tackles a professor with early-onset Alzheimer’s, is not a melodrama about losing oneself to such a horrible disease of the mind. It’s actually a story about the power of family and the ferocity that love can bring to such a dire situation.
We all know Julianne Moore can act the hell out of anything. I get upset when everyone calls Meryl Streep the ultimate actor of our days because Moore is right up there with her. In Still Alice, she is delicate and fragile. She expresses acceptance of what’s befallen her, and of what’s to come. However, as a viewer, our willingness to grasp what’s happening to Alice, this gifted intellectual with such esteemed accolades, is much more difficult. Watching Alice’s condition deteriorate is very distressing. Strengthening this distress is Moore’s realistic portrayal of a woman who loves her life, her family, and her memories so much.
Her family is another story. While supportive, I couldn’t shake the impression that they were just not completely invested in trying to help their mother adapt to a new, albeit undesirable, permanent situation. Alice’s eldest daughter Anna, portrayed by Kate Bosworth, is icy and focused solely on her intent to have a baby with her husband. Alice’s son, portrayed by Hunter Parrish, is more compassionate but still quite absent from his mother’s decline. It is Alice’s youngest daughter Lydia, portrayed by Kristen Stewart, who acts as the exception to this seemingly collective familial attitude.
My issue with Kristen Stewart is that she often comes across as surly and pretentious. However, in Still Alice, her quirky acting style totally works for the role. She’s the only one that really continues to treat her mother a person and not a burden. It is the scenes between Stewart and Moore that resonated most with me in their beauty and subtlety. These two should work together again soon.
Baldwin, in all of his barbaric ways, was a poor casting choice for this role. His character, like Bosworth’s, is selfish and cold. His intentions are solely self-serving, despite his words stating the contrary. I kept expecting him to ramble off jokes like an SNL monologue. It was that kind of screen presence he was giving here.
The film itself is pretty and a bit average in its style, if I had to judge. The beauty of New York is always the star in films set in the magical city, and this film is no exception. Set in a seemingly perpetual Fall season, the film is rich in warm hues and sweaters, making me want to put on an enormous, comfy sweater and curl up on the couch, which, incidentally, is what perfectly describes how I watched Still Alice. And also, I think Apple may have paid for some endorsements in this film.
Warning: There is a scene in which Alice cannot find the bathroom in her summer beach home. It made me cry like a baby.