The power of Moore’s Oscar-winning performance comes not from the weepy emotional scenes found in Still Alice but when she’s trying to keep everything together, hanging on to some semblance of her former self. Strength in the face of inevitability. It’s Moore that helps pull Still Alice away from a Disease of the Week melodrama, which it so often veers towards.
Moore plays the eponymous Alice, a professor of linguistics married to John (Baldwin) and mother to three kids: bossy Anna (Bosworth), flaky Lydia (Stewart) and nondescript Tom (Hunter Parish). Troubled that she has been scatty of late - forgetting addresses, dropping words, unable to remember family recipes - she’s told by her neurologist she is suffering from the onset of a rare form of genetic Alzheimer’s, which means her children have a fifty-fifty chance of developing the disease too.
It’s a solid drama but it could have been more. Writer-directors Glatzer and Westmoreland have a wealth of dramatic scenarios to tap into but once raised are promptly dropped. Baldwin gets a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work for the Mayo Clinic, which means moving kit and caboodle to Minnesota - the implication being that since Alice won’t remember anything anyway, why not move there? The horror that Bosworth might test positive for Alzheimer’s just as she gets pregnant is granted only one scene over the phone and isn’t brought up again. Frustrating.
The one drum they keep banging is the friction between Moore and the underrated Stewart, the former unsure of the latter’s venture into acting. It’s this mother-daughter relationship, more than the wife-husband one, that forms the backbone of the story, which is a fresh approach. Fresher still is that it resists the temptation for big emotional weepie scenes.
It’s a brave move looking for some magic, something real, in the ordinary but apart from Moore’s stunning turn Still Alice is, well, ordinary (which might explain the lack of nominations outside its leading lady). When Glatzer and Westmoreland do aim for the Big Scene - like Alice’s speech to an Alzheimer’s association - the words don’t have the impact they should. However, one moment that does hit hard is the video a lucid Moore secretly records for her future self.
Moore and Stewart great, movie decent enough.