Granger on Movies: 'Still Alice'
Published 10:08 am, Monday, February 16, 2015
Julianne Moore elevates this sensitive chronicle of a woman's descent into the oblivion of Alzheimer's disease. From her midnight panics to her courageous struggle, Moore's restrained, delicately nuanced performance scorches with ferocious intensity.
Brilliant, beautiful, 50-year-old Alice Howland (Moore) is a renowned linguistics professor at Columbia University who she suddenly starts to forget words during a lecture. She's a dedicated jogger who then becomes confused about where she is, even though she's in the familiar environs of Central Park.
When her neurologist diagnoses early-onset Alzheimer's, Alice's supportive husband John (Alec Baldwin), a research physician, is at her side. Worse yet, through further testing, Alice discovers her particular strain of the disease is genetic. That profoundly affects her grown children: Lydia (Kristen Stewart), Anna (Kate Bosworth) and Tom (Hunter Parrish).
Determined to end her life when her deterioration becomes unbearable, she stores up sleeping pills, hiding them in a bureau drawer, posting a reminder on her computer. It's Alice's daily struggle to stay connected when the tenuous threads are fraying that propels the tragic, character-driven plot.
Working from neuroscientist Lisa Genova's 2007 novel, writer/directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland have constructed a compassionate, enlightening story -- that's heightened by their own personal drama.
Mr. Glatzer and Mr. Westmoreland are married and, as they were developing this script, Glatzer was told he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known as A.L.S. or Lou Gehrig's disease. It's degenerative and, ultimately, fatal. That obviously gave a sense of urgency to completing this project.
"Still Alice" was made for less than $5 million and shot over 23 days in Manhattan, mostly in a brownstone on West 162nd Street that was under renovation. And the score by British composer Ilan Eshkeri is subtly unobtrusive yet evocative.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Still Alice" is a profoundly eloquent, empathetic 8. According to statistics, Alzheimer's will affect in roughly one in 85 people, worldwide, by 2050.
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