Still Alice has a clever title. In fact, it’s my favourite part of this movie that resembles a made-for-TV film, taken a little higher on the attention meter by having Julieanne Moore as the lead.
Put a B-lister in the role, re-badge it with a colon in the title and it would fit comfortably as one of those dreadful movies Channel 7 plays at noon on week-days.
Co-directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland have taken Glatzer’s screenplay and condensed a few years in the life of a successful writer-academic, Alice (Moore) and the effect on her after being diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s.
Unfortunately, the story is pretty close to Glatzer, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or, for those as old as me, Lou Gehrig’s disease. Glatzer can only speak through an app, so we know his heart is in the work.
With all that lived experience couldn’t we have had just a bit more than the series of predictable vignettes surrounding Alice and her family, husband Jack (Alec Baldwin) and children, Anna (Kate Bosworth), Who Cares Cos I Was Unnecessary to the Plot (Parrish Hunter) and Lydia (Kristen Stewart)?
Still Alice was a hundred cliches bundled into a movie. One reviewer wrote they were still drying the tears off the carpet days after it premiered. Not many like a good cry at the movies more than me and I had no sympathy for any of them. Tears? More like, take the pills and let us out of here!
I cry at good scripts, when some writer is so clever they draw water from my head at the mere whiff of having penned something clever or original. Not one such line appeared in Still Alice.
Selfish Jack is understanding of Alice’s plight but doesn’t change his lifestyle for a minute; Prissy Anna is trying to have children, conflicted when she finds she has the same chance of getting the disease as Mummy; Lydia is the rebel of the family, not following the academic path favoured by Alice and living on the west coast. Boy son? No idea why he was there except to satisfy Glatzer’s notion of the nuclear family and not just having two sisters at odds by counter balancing it with a brother.
At one point Jack, trying to move his wife to Minnesota (Why not England if he really wanted to make her life hell?) says they are not financial enough to do without his new job offer. How? Are they all on heroin? Does Jack flit to Vegas and play the tables?
Surely, a loving husband, as Jack is portrayed, asks his wife what she wants and does it with her while she still has some lucid moments?
We are told Alice is brainy and successful. There is no evidence of this except for a glowing pre-speech introduction from a former colleague. She has given her life to linguistics yet writes “Where R U?” in an sms. No, I won’t have that.
Columbia University, where she and Jack both work, don’t work out Alice has a disease or even anything slightly wrong with her until her head of department reads complaint letters from students who have completed her course. Okay, they are academics. More concerned about climate change and the Palestinian situation than real life but really?
Alice loses her phone and is greatly concerned. I know you’re just an academic Jack and your wife is the smartest woman in the world, but couldn’t one of you have worked out to dial the number from another telephone and listen for the ring?
Much has been made of Moore’s performance – she became another in the long list of Hollywood actors winning an Oscar for playing someone with a disease or disability – but I thought she was just okay in the role.
Moore is a great actress as her roles in Boogie Nights (1997), The Big Lebowski (1998) and The Hours (2002) attest but I thought Stewart outshone her as the wannabe actor, Lydia.
Still Alice? Try: Forgotten: The Alice Howland Story.