Joining the long list of outstanding performances by actors doing what they do (acting) but making it look like more because they’re dealing with forms of disability, Julianne Moore as a linguistics professor with early onset dementia is excellent: it takes a superbly intelligent actress to embody the loss of self-defining intellect. And by embody, think mental confusion that translates to a deep sense of physical dislocation. Now think of Michael Haneke’s Amour and you’ll see why this review opens a little peevishly. Haneke’s was an ensemble tour-de-force in which the familial consequences of dementia span off into an abyss of dignified despair. In Still Alice, the supporting family infrastructure suffers the bathos of East Coast Ivy League-ish affluence. Although Stewart as the younger ‘artistic’ daughter bites the responsibility bullet, her sister worries about genetics whilst Alice’s husband debates the necessity of putting his career on hold. One can’t blame the setting for being less claustrophobic (and less European) than the one created by Haneke, but more could have been made of the terrifying implications of such a diagnosis in terms of screenplay. Although it’s competently moving, Still Alice feels a little too mannered to be truly shattering.
Still Alice | Directed by Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland (USA 2014) with Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart. Starts March 5
Originally published in issue #136, March 2015