Playing a remarkable woman who will soon lose her memory of everything, Ms. Moore’s performance will win the Oscar in a role you will never forget.
Every several years a film that escapes attention as the year’s “Best Picture” contains the year’s best performance. Such is the case with co-Directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland’s “Still Alice”.
The performance of Julianne Moore as Alice Howland, a college professor stricken with the early onset of Alzheimer’s, is startling from beginning to end. The film functions more as a documentary in that you watch a crushing medical analysis quickly transform into a personal and family tragedy that leaves you as devastated in your seat as those on the screen. The camera takes you inside a family unit as their matriarch tries to embrace every moment as the intellectual function of her brain is quickly destroyed.
As Ms. Moore tries to fight the inevitable, you watch her plan her own suicide while wishing she had some form of cancer that would prove to be more socially acceptable. Though she tried to persevere, the result is inevitable as she gradually loses the ability to recognize her children’s friends along with other acquaintances.
What you also see is other members of the family trying to provide some type of support and assistance that becomes increasingly difficult. Her husband, a physician played with some unexpected gentleness by Alec Baldwin, wants to be at her side while she repeatedly forgets to meet him at various functions. Offered a coveted position from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, his wife implores him to simply take a leave of absence and stay in New York so that they can find some meaning in their last year together.
The anguish of the three grown children is heightened when they discover that their mother has a form of Alzheimer’s that is potentially inherited by her offspring. Kate Bosworth plays one of Ms. Moore’s daughters, and she is not only married but expecting the birth of twins. Do you get an available test to determine if you will be stricken at 50 years of age like your mother, or do you just leave it to fate? What would you do?
While Ms. Moore has a son who is also a doctor, Kristin Stewart rises to a level that we have not seen before on the screen. Playing the youngest child Lydea, she is literally the black sheep in the family, rejecting higher education to pursue an acting career in California. Left battling her mother and sister while secretly getting financial support from her father, Ms. Stewart is fascinating as she heads into a personal direction that had left her mother anxiety ridden long before the onset of her mental illness.
Additionally, Steven Kunken also stands out, here playing the physician who has diagnosed and is treating Alice. In an overwhelmingly powerful moment of this heartbreaking film, he encourages Alice to give a speech to others about her Alzheimer’s affliction. To prepare she has had to spend hours on a speech that she would outline with a magic marker so that she wouldn’t repeat herself. As she talks about the effects of losing her memory, she accidentally drops her speech on to the floor, and everyone holds their breath as she picks it up. Left wondering if she has lost her place, she looks at the crowd, smiles and says, “I wish I could forget doing that.” The audience in the theater laughed as loudly as those on the screen.
At the end of her speech, everyone on screen stood and applauded, which included her children. They were crying as they smiled at her, and you will be doing the same thing in your seat.