‘Alice’ focuses on emotional toll of Alzheimer’s
By Bob Bloom
“Still Alice” is a horror story that contains neither ghouls nor goblins.
It does, however, feature an invisible, insidious monster that eats away at the human brain — Alzheimer’s disease.
Julianne Moore gives a heart-wrenching performance as Alice Howland, a renowned professor of linguistics at Columbia University, who, in her early 50s, finds her life drastically upended when she is diagnosed with Early-Onset Alzheimer’s.
Alice realizes that something is wrong when she begins forgetting words and loses her bearings while jogging around Columbia’s campus.
She sees a neurologist who orders some tests. The results are basically a mental death sentence for the vibrant woman.
In a heartbreaking scene, Alice and her husband, John (Alec Baldwin), gather their adult children at Thanksgiving, where they are told of their mother’s diagnosis.
To make matters more painful, Alice also suggests each is tested because the disease is genetic. This especially frightens the Howlands’ married and pregnant daughter, Anna (Kate Bosworth) and her husband, Charlie (Shane McRae).
Her son, Tom (Hunter Parrish) and other daughter, Lydia (Kristen Stewart) are devastated by the news.
Moore is very impressive as she charts Alice’s deterioration. She knows what is happening to her and that nothing can stop the disease from devouring her mind and memories.
Though Alice does what she can to fight, it is a battle she cannot win.
Moore ably displays the frustration and fear that most likely is a daily occurrence for most Alzheimer’s victims.
It is an acting feat that surely will win Moore an Academy Award — since she already has collected statues from the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild.
Baldwin, who lately has been supporting many fine actresses by playing their boorish or caddish husbands, here gives a sensitive portrayal of a loving and supportive spouse who does what he can to encourage and aid the wife he knows he is certainly going to lose.
Smartly, screenwriters Lisa Genova, Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer — the latter two also directed the film — do not wrap Baldwin’s John Howland in a sable of sainthood. They allow him to vent his frustrations and anger over his wife’s fate.
Stewart’s Lydia is the film’s most complex character. She’s a struggling actress who realizes she has disappointed her mother by not attending college.
Yet, she is the most sensitive and, ultimately, most forgiving about her mother’s condition.
“Still Alice” will open your eyes to the scourge of Alzheimer’s. More importantly, it will give you an understanding and appreciation of the disease’s impact on loved ones, people you may know and their caregivers.
Unfortunately, this is one movie where the monster is not vanquished or destroyed. That will happen only when a cure is found.
Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at Reel Bob (reelbob.com) and The Film Yap (filmyap.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.
4 stars out of 4
(PG-13), adult themes, language, sexual situations
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