Sunday, February 22, 2015

Still Alice

This isn't quite the only bit of Oscar-related catch-up I'm doing - there are reviews for two of the foreign-language features coming up - but it's as far as I'll get for the mainstream awards. No American Sniper for me, unless it's the looking like the best thing at the best time at some point after the awards.

A couple of odd things: There was an ad for Alzheimer's medication playing in Kendall Square (where this movie is on screen 1) a night or two later, and that's kind of right on the border of not-cool as far as advertising in movie theaters goes.

The weirdest detail for me, though, was that when Alice attends a conference, her badge has 2016 for the year, which is a sort of curious choice - most of the time, when you see a date on-screen, it betrays when the film was actually shot, and I kind of wonder what the filmmakers were thinking making that choice. Did they think it would take a while to find release?

Anyway, here's hoping that some effective sort of treatment for the disease is approved this year so that this scene looks a little out of date when time catches up.

Still Alice

* * * (out of four)
Seen 19 February 2015 in AMC Boston Common #6 (first-run, DCP)

Julianne Moore is up for an Academy Award in the category of "Best Performance By an Actress in a Leading Role" for her performance in Still Alice, which is nice, because that's a big part of what the movie is for. Not the award specifically, and I'm certain that increasing awareness and understanding of how Alzheimer's Disease affects those afflicted with it and their loved ones is a big part of its reason for existing as well, but Alice Howland is a part where an actress can show what she's capable of, and Moore certainly recognized that when she took it.

It takes a while for Howland, a Columbia University linguistics professor, to be diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's, as a series of memory lapses and moments of confusion add up to something that carries her to seek out a neurologist (Stephen Kunken). Initially her husband John (Alec Baldwin), a research physician, doesn't believe it, but eventually he and their children Anna (Kate Bosworth), Tom (Hunter Parrish), and Lydia (Kristen Stewart), have to accept it as a part of their lives and think about what comes next.

Let's start with the obvious: Julianne Moore is worth the price of admission. If the movie his false notes, it's not her doing, as she does an excellent job of showing how Alice is both intimidating intelligent and a warm family woman at the start, with all the overlaps and conflicts that entails, and then adding each step down the road in a way that seems almost effortless. It's a performance that can admittedly sometimes seem a little mannered, but not all the time, and Moore has enough moments where her struggling is subtle enough that the other moments become believably awkward instead of just played big.

Full review at EFC.

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