Julianne Moore has long been considered one of the finest actresses working today. Whether playing a 1970’s pornography actress in Boogie Nights, an unhappy mid-20th century housewife in Far from Heaven, or Sarah Palin in Game Change, she becomes the character. After four Academy Award nominations, Moore finally scored an overdue win for Still Alice, recognizing a performance that’s a master class in acting.
Adapted from the novel by neuroscientist Lisa Genova, Moore plays Dr. Alice Howland, a 50-year-old linguistics professor at Columbia University. She begins forgetting things, and visits a neurologist. She is devastatingly diagnosed with early onset familial Alzheimer’s disease. Having been defined by her intelligence, and profound understanding of language, Alice soon finds herself at a loss—the very core of her being slipping away. Forgetting parts of lectures at work that once were second nature to her, getting lost on her daily jog, forgetting long held family recipes. With her children not only reeling from her diagnosis, but the news that the condition is hereditary, Alice’s husband John struggles, as he watches the woman he loves fight to hold on to a world once familiar, slipping away.
Julianne Moore does a wonderful job of showing the ebbs and flows of Alzheimer’s disease. In one poignant scene, Alice’s daughter Lydia (a terrific Kristen Stewart) asks “What does it actually feel like?” Alice’s response is thoughtful, and articulate, “Some days I can almost pass for a normal person, on others, I feel like I can’t find myself…” This statement is made all the more poignant because both she and the audience are aware that the bad days will soon outnumber the good.
As words become more difficult, Moore draws us into her increasingly smaller world through the expressions—pain, anxiety—on her face. In the midst of all this sadness though, Alice is an inspiration. A very smart woman, even before her diagnosis, she turned to technology as a way to stay in the game—her mobile phone acting as a kind of constant memory test, and a place where she put all the important names, dates, etc., in her life. Alice’s laptop was also a lifeline, providing secret messages to herself.
Co-written and directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, Still Alice is all the more remarkable when you consider that Richard Glatzer was battling ALS during filming (using some of the same technology Alice employs), showing the same invincible spirit as his films protagonist, to stay active, and connected for as long as possible, despite physical frailties. Though Glatzer died in March of this year, Still Alice stands as a wonderful tribute to him, and his desire to make movies until the end.
Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Sony has given Still Alice a solid transfer. Despite some brief moments of softness, the image is rather impressive. Details are quite good throughout, bringing out facial hair, wrinkles in clothing, etc. Colors are well balanced, and vibrant. There are no real digital issues to speak of.
Still Alice features a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which fits the film rather well. This is a dialogue heavy movie, and words are delivered clearly, and evenly throughout. Ambience is incorporated well when necessary, and music is well defined. This is a simple, but well-constructed track.
English, English SDH, and French subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Directing Alice (HD, 8:40) A look at directors Wash Westmoreland and the late Richard Glatzer and their work on the filmmaking process, with particular emphasis on the challenges faced by Glatzer, who was dealing with ALS.
- Finding Alice (HD, 9:20) An overview of Alzheimer’s disease and Moore’s preparations for the part with real-life Alzheimer’s patient Sandy Oltz.
- Interview with Composer Ilan Eshkeri (HD, 6:29) The film’s composer discusses how his score helps to define the movie.
- Deleted Scenes (HD) Original Intro (1:58), Doctor Visit (2:10), and Student Presentation (2:12).
- Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:18).
- UV Digital Copy of the film