With Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland‘s Still Alice having opened yesterday, here’s a portion of my 11.28 review. Actually, I’m rewriting portions as I go along. Well, half and half. I began by saying that Still Alice is a morose but affecting Lifetime movie about a brilliant college professor (Julianne Moore) who, at age 50, begins to succumb to the awful progressive malice of Alzheimer’s diseasem, or actually early onset Alzheimer’s. Which an HE reader has since dubbed Alice-heimer’s. Sorry.
Moore plays her melancholy part with delicacy and the depth of feeling that only great actresses seem to fully harness — she’s convincing and then some and deserves the Best Actress Oscar that she’s been all but asssured of winning for…what, four and a half months now?
But for me, Still Alice is a hellish thing to sit through. It’s a dirge about a kind of death sentence or more precisely a spiritual suffocation, mitigated to some extent by the fact that the condemned (i.e., Moore) is attractive and wealthy and married to a nice man (Alec Baldwin) and surrounded by bright, sensitive family members who care a great deal and can do absolutely nothing to help.
Still Alice is a movie that says “okay, your brain is going to start dying now…okay, the symptoms are getting a little worse now…is the horror of this predicament affecting everyone? Getting worse, still worse…my God, this disease really sucks! And Julianne Moore can’t do anything about it. And neither can you, the viewer. Because we, the filmmakers, have decided that the most sensitive and affecting thing to do is for everyone — Moore, the costars, the audience, Jeffrey Wells sitting on his living room couch — to just ride it out to the end…sadly, gently, compassionately.”
Do you want to watch a film about the drip-drip death of your mind and memory and the winding down of everything that makes life worth living? Do you want to submit to a slow grim slide into the void? I know I’m going to die one day but I’m feeling really great right now so no offense but if I had a choice between watching this movie again and sticking needles in my eyes, I’d be torn.
Spoiler paragraph #1: Still Alice doesn’t just present a doomed-with-no-hope scenario for Moore’s character but — surprise! — one of her children also, and perhaps (who knows?) even a grandchild or two.
Spoiler paragraph #2: The film also throws away the one dramatic option that might give the film decisive gravitas. What’s the one option that a person being sucked into an Alzheimer vortex has to control such a situation and stand up for dignity? Who believes that life without a functioning brain or the ability to remember the location of your own bathroom is worth living? Glazer and Westmoreland flirt with this, plot-wise, but in the end they cop out. End of spoiler paragraph.