Combustible Celluloid
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With: Julianne Moore, Kristen Stewart, Alec Baldwin, Kate Bosworth, Hunter Parrish, Victoria Cartagena, Erin Drake, Shane McRae, Stephen Kunken
Written by: Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland, based on a novel by Lisa Genova
Directed by: Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material, and brief language including a sexual reference
Running Time: 101
Date: 12/20/2014

Still Alice (2014)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Farewell, Memory

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Julianne Moore will probably win an Oscar for Best Actress for her work in Still Alice. She recently won the San Francisco Film Critics Circle award in the same category, as well as many other awards so far. She's a great actress. She has been nominated many times but has never won, and has been great in many more films that did not receive nominations. She has been consistently good for more than 20 years, and easily ranks with our best. Her work here is above reproach.

Still Alice is a "disease-of-the-week" movie about Alzheimer's Disease, which is a truly horrible thing. My grandmother had it, and it's awful for everyone involved. Furthermore, co-directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland (whose The Last of Robin Hood was also released in 2014), probably have a huge emotional stake in a movie like this, given that Mr. Glatzer suffers from ALS. They must have taken this movie very seriously.

All that is on one end, and that may be enough for many or most critics to give Still Alice a good review. But, sadly, it's not a good movie. The rest of the able cast, including Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, and Kate Bosworth, have little to do but react to the bad news. As depicted, the events in the story seem calculated around the disease. Alice's memory lapses actually fuel the plot, rather than the movie following her slow deterioration. Although I'd bet that this was not intentional, it still strikes me as rather cruel. Overall, it doesn't have enough of a worldview to avoid all the cliches of this little genre, which seems to have lots of fans, and many Oscar voters among them.

A great example of this kind of movie would be Sarah Polley's remarkable Away from Her, which also received an Oscar nomination for the sufferer of the disease, Julie Christie. But it began with the story, characters, and mood, and only then did it bring the disease in. Still Alice puts the disease before everything. This disease is no fun, and no one should have to experience it in any way. A movie should somehow rise above that.

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