Imagine you are a renowned linguistics professor at Columbia University. You have a wonderful marriage with a handsome, equally successful husband, and three beautiful, adult children who adore you. You have just celebrated your 50th birthday.
Everything is perfect in your world, and then you receive the devastating news that you have early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
After experiencing a few episodes of forgetfulness, Alice visits a doctor who diagnoses her condition after running a few tests on her.
When the initial shock of her surprise diagnosis wears off, Alice (played by award-winning actress Julianne Moore) and her husband John inform their children of her medical condition. Alice then does everything in her power to stave off the cognitive deterioration that threatens to disconnect her from her family and everything she knows and loves.
The 90-minute view into Alice’s world as she tries to maintain control is at once heartbreaking and enlightening. By the end of the film, the experience of Alzheimer’s has been brought home in a way that is both realistic and nonjudgmental.
The ugliness of the disease is not hidden from the viewer, and there is no candy-coated sweet ending to send viewers off with misguided notions of how Alzheimer’s impacts not just the afflicted, but everyone around them as well.
Julianne Moore’s Alice is happy, sad, angry, desperate, aloof, and forgetful. This range of emotions is covered brilliantly by Moore, and one should expect nothing less from the actress who has given us everything from a cocaine-addled porn star in Boogie Nights (for which she received an Academy Award nomination) to the suspicious, protective friend in The Hand That Rocks The Cradle.
Moore received a both a Golden Globe Award and an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Alice, and it is fitting because delivering raw emotion is what she does best. Through Moore we are able to feel the despondency of Alice as she goes through the taxing motions of trying to retain control of her own mind.
Moore’s Alice is supported by a loving family in the form of Alec Baldwin, Kate Bosworth, Hunter Parrish, and Kristen Stewart.
Through Baldwin, we get Alice’s husband John, who is angry with the situation, but forever in love with his wife. John supports Alice through every episode of forgetfulness, every angry outburst, and every tearful moment, often holding back his own emotion. Alec Baldwin is excellent in this role, and he makes it easy to forget that he has made his money the last few years as a comedic actor.
Hunter Parrish plays Alice’s son Tom. He is loving and supportive of his mother, and wants what is best for her. Parrish is an accomplished actor, but sadly his talent goes wasted and underutilized in this film.
Kate Bosworth plays eldest daughter Anna, a married woman looking to start a family of her own. Her mother’s moments of forgetfulness are not lost on her, but she chooses not to dwell or focus on them, and is instead incredibly supportive of the negative experience that Alice is going through.
Kristen Stewart is youngest daughter Lydia, and in a departure from most of Stewart’s roles thus far, she is not playing a variation of Bella Swan. Her performance is surprisingly good. Lydia’s love and support of her mother is unwavering, and even when she has a few moments of anger toward Alice, she quickly recovers from them and continues to be one of Alice’s biggest supports throughout the film.
Even when Lydia experiences her own personal dramas, she remains ever faithful to the mother-daughter bond she shares with Alice.
Viewers will come away from this film experience with a better understanding of just how unforgiving this particular disease can be, and the horrible effects it can have on an entire family when one member suffers from it.
The ugliness of Alzheimer’s is pit against a family that simply wants their loved one to be OK. As Alice quickly deteriorates, they all step up to help in small ways and offer encouragement to her, even when they know the end result is inevitable.
It is that sense of hope that carries the film, not in a soapy, happy tidy endings way, but in a way that leaves you rooting for the family to be whole no matter what happens to Alice in the end.
Like them, we are left wanting Alice to be, well, Still Alice.
Still Alice opened in December for a one week Oscar qualifying run, and had a wide theatrical release on January 15.