Still Alice features fine performances, but the film’s insights into early onset Alzheimer’s are neither inventive or all that illuminating.
Yes, the tragedy of this disease is a horrible thing, but Still Alice doesn’t really explore a whole lot about said disease aside from trying to make us feel sad about. The portrait of someone dealing with this disease does have its limitations, not being able to remember things isn’t inherently cinematic, and the film doesn’t ever try to be all the experimental outside a couple of flourishes. One of those flourishes is quite amazing though, with Julianne Moore’s character sitting in focus in the foreground, oblivious, while her family discusses her in the background out of focus. This is about the only thing that has stuck with me about this movie outside the quality of the performances.
The aforementioned Julianne Moore is very good in the film and plays the part with no self-pity and a vigor to live that is commendable in a part that could have easily been played all “feel sorry for me”. Moore doesn’t touch that at all and it is her greatest strength in the performance. She also plays wonderfully off her co-stars, with Kristen Stewart and Alec Baldwin being the standouts. Stewart is a very convincing free spirit and, like Moore, avoids some of the potential eye rolling pitfalls of the part. Where Stewart could have easily played into the whole rebel daughter part, she instead plays the part as someone doing what she wants and respectfully asks her parents to support her in the process. Baldwin captures some of the struggles of being the spouse of someone who is going through something like this and he plays the frustration calmly and respectfully, which is all one can do in a situation like this.
In fact, one of the film’s strengths is that it never really dives into the big over the top emotions you might expect from a movie like this. I think one of the things that hurts the film though is its affluent setting. Yes, if you set the film in and around the poor then it seems like you are piling on their misery, but the well-to-do-ness of the Howland family does put the majority of viewers at an arm’s length from the drama.
Still Alice isn’t a bad movie, but I am not really sure it’s that good a one either. The performances are all good pretty much across the board, but I never found myself moved or all that affected by the film which really wants you to feel something for this family. Still Alice is full of compelling acting yet, somehow, not compelling drama.