Starring: Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, Shane McRae, Hunter Parrish
Adapted from the book of the same title by: Lisa Genova
Written for the Screen and Directed by: Richard Glatzer & Wash Westmoreland
Metacritic Score: 72
IMDb Score: 7.5
Winner of 1 Academy Award for Best Actress (Julianne Moore)
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, and brief language including a sexual reference
Ahh, the Oscar Bait performance pieces. It’s the movies that actors make to ensure that they can nominated and/or win an Oscar for their performance. For years, Julianne Moore has been doing amazing work in movies like Short Cuts, The Hours, Boogie Nights, The End of the Affair and Far From Heaven, but seems to fall just short of getting the award that she clearly deserves.
Of course, in order to win as Best Actress (especially in the last 5 years), you have to play someone with a debilitating mental disease that slowly deteriorates the character throughout the narrative of the film.
Don’t believe me? Check the last 5 winners. Go ahead.
Anyway, it’s clear that this film is as Oscar bait as they come, but is it still a good movie?
Dr. Alice Howland (Moore) is a highly respected and successful linguistics professor at an esteemed university. She has a very close knit family with her husband John (Baldwin) and her children (Bosworth, McRae, Stewart). Their bonds will be severely tested when she finds out she has early onset Alzheimer’s Disease and she begins to start losing her memory and herself.
This movie is as middle of the road as they come. The script does just enough not to be pretentious; the direction does just enough to be competent; the performances does just enough not to be bad: with the exception of scenes with Moore and Stewart. Other than that, Still Alice is quite simply a very structured, but also very well worn, familial tearjerker that has been done countless times before.
In fact, this movie reminds me distinctly of One True Thing, with Meryl Streep and Renee Zellweger, only instead of Alzheimer’s that movie had cancer. It goes through the same paces: showing the main character as lovable, approachable and adored by all. Then, it shows the character when she starts to realize something is wrong. Then, the slow deterioration followed by the moment of complete desperation and realization of what’s to become. There are differences between the two movies, but the outline goes about it the same way.
As a movie, you know exactly what happens at nearly all the same points in the movie. Depending on the execution set forth, that could be a big problem or not one at all. Yet, the writers and directors create a movie that could have clearly been put on a cable-TV station (were it not for the great cast and mentioning of a blowjob in one scene): it would have been a good cable TV movie, but nonetheless the movie does zero to legitimize why it can be a theatrically released movie.
The movie just doesn’t have anything that makes it stand out or makes it pop in a way that really chokes you up. When you look at most tragic movies, whether the catalyst be illness or otherwise, there’s a through line that makes you get invested in the movie.
With the exception of about 15 minutes, the film involves either just the main character or her relationship with her husband (who comes off as sort of a dick, but it’s also sort of understandable, I guess). The problem with that is, despite some good chemistry between Baldwin and Moore, at no point do you really begin to feel like these characters have any you can connect with.
That’s especially problematic for Moore’s character, with whom you are supposed to be connected to and, eventually, feel destroyed by her countdown to good-bye. With her character specifically, what you know is only based on her success, that she’s very wealthy and that she is obviously very smart. That’s really it: Nothing to ground her into being little more than just a character created just to show how debilitating this disease is.
Still Alice only has one thing that works and it’s not nearly used as much as it should: it’s the mother-daughter relationship between the Julianne Moore/Kristen Stewart character. The two actresses have a chemistry that really works and can only wished they explored it further (or just made the movie about those two characters).
These are really the only good glimpses of what could be generously called standout performances, mainly because it gives that wrinkle that these types of films need in order to be unique and genuine. Only, it’s about 15 – 20 minutes of the film, which is a big shame.
So, what about Julianne Moore’s performance in the movie? Is it as exceptional as critics were saying during awards season? The short answer: no. Elaborate? It goes nowhere near her more well known and more celebrated performances (see: above).
It’s not a bad performance, but it’s simply competent. It’s a performance that you would expect an actress like her to just sleep through with no problems whatsoever: there doesn’t seem to be a challenge or anything that makes it stand out.
In fact, just looking at her past catalogue of films and you see exactly how far down this movie would go in terms of great performances by her. From her brutally honest and painful performance in The Hours to her twisted, yet endearing performance as a porn actress in Boogie Nights, it’s really even hard to contemplate if this performance should even be compared to those.
This performance? It would be in the range of Don Jon and The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio. It’s not as blazingly stupid as The Laws of Attraction or The Forgotten, but still isn’t something that should be praised the way it is.
Basically, with the exception of the chemistry between Moore and Stewart, this movie is as middle of the road as they come in every aspect. Everything in the movie just seems like it’s doing just enough in order to not be deemed “bad”.
It is, in essence, the most exacting piece of Oscar Bait created in a long time.
2.5/5 – Despite a good chemistry with Kristen Stewart and Julianne Moore, this movie is as bland and middle of the road as they come.
The Wiz Says #36