Movie review: ‘Still Alice’ offers haunting, devastating look at Alzheimer’s disease

I read Lisa Genova’s fictional account of a professor diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease quite a while ago, and was quite moved by the novel. I was excited to learn that Julianne Moore, one of my favorite actresses, was playing the lead role. It is rewarding to see the film receive so many positive reviews, and Moore collect many awards and accolades for her sensitive portrayal of the main character. The fact that one of Hollywood’s most respected actresses took on this role and is now receiving Oscar buzz will hopefully help raise awareness.

Some have questioned the focus on the familial form of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, which is quite rare, but I think there is value in showing the general public that Alzheimer’s is not just an “old person’s” disease. The more readers and moviegoers can sense how profoundly this disease can destroy someone at the prime of their life, and the devastating impact the disease has on families, hopefully the more donations will come in for research and care funding.

BSM Studio/Sony Pictures Classic

BSM Studio/Sony Pictures Classic

It’s worth noting that one of the film’s directors, Richard Glatzer, has ALS, another disease that slowly robs one of their independence.

I went to see the movie on a Monday afternoon, and was pleasantly surprised to see about 30-40 other theater patrons. I expected only a handful. Let’s face it, the movie is not escapist, blockbuster entertainment.

I thought Julianne Moore offered a very sensitive and realistic performance. She spent a lot of time talking with those who have early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, as she was determined not to show anything in the film that was not accurate. The movie mainly follows the book, with some changes that I didn’t think hurt the story.

As for the rest of the cast, Kristen Stewart was well-cast as the youngest “black sheep” daughter. What I found most profound about the film was that Alice so wants her youngest daughter, who is an aspiring actress, to be like her other children (one’s a lawyer, the other in med school.) Before the disease, she cannot see how her own profession, as a linguistics professor, is more closely aligned to the theatre world than law or medicine. As the disease progresses, Alice and her youngest are able to bond over language, even as Alice is rapidly losing her ability to communicate.

I thought Alec Baldwin was miscast as the husband but he gave a surprisingly restrained performance (not easy for him!)

So definitely a must-see. Perhaps because I read the book and knew what was going to happen, I didn’t find it to be a total tear-jerker, but it did leave me profoundly moved.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Movie review: ‘Still Alice’ offers haunting, devastating look at Alzheimer’s disease

  1. Pingback: Spotlight on devastating diseases at the Oscars | The Memories Project

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