The lovely, talented Julianne Moore received her fifth Oscar nomination and won her first Oscar for playing Dr Alice Howland, a linguistic professor suffering from Early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease in Still Alice.
Still Alice is not a bad film at all. In fact, I thought it was pretty good, just nothing amazing or special. Calling it a TV movie is a bit harsh in my opinion, as I felt that it handled its subject matter very honestly, albeit simplistically. It could have been another overly-sentimental and cheesy hallmark movie that aims to manipulate its audience into tears, but I was genuinely moved in certain moments (mainly thanks to Moore), and the acting was good all round. I usually cannot stand Kstew, but this could be the best performance of hers that I’ve seen so far. She’s still doing her lip-biting/hair stroking/ constant sighing thing, and I don’t really buy her as an aspiring actress (theatre scene was awkward), but I thought her scenes with Moore were really well-handled and touching in some parts. Same goes for Alec Baldwin who gives a very good performance as Alice’s supportive husband,
Naturally, the star of this film is Julianne Moore. When Still Alice was first released, everyone was already going on about how she is FINALLY going to win her first Oscar. To me, this talented lady should already have won at least two golden statues throughout her remarkable career (The Hours/Boogie Nights/Far From Heaven), and I’m sure everyone felt the same way. In fact, I don’t think people minded too much about the fact that this isn’t her best performance, or that it isn’t even what they consider the best female performance of the year: They just wanted to see Moore with an Oscar, and her winning moment was probably the highlight of this year’s Oscar ceremony.
I have to admit, I came into this performance expecting to be underwhelmed, mainly because of the reviews people were giving. Nonetheless, I was still highly impressed (I’m easily impressed, you know that) by what Moore had to offer here, as she got to showcase her natural instincts and attention to details as an actress.
The first thing I highly admired about Moore’s performance is her highly realistic depiction of the character’s deterioration. Actually, the way the story was structured made it seem a bit rushed, but Moore clearly did her research and showed the gradual and painful process of her memory loss. She displayed so many emotions here that were heartbreaking to watch: fear, desperation, sadness and shame. There was one particular scene where Alice said that she wished she had cancer instead, and I really felt sorry for her at that moment. This was a woman who had a brilliant mind and career, and watching her lose grasp of what she had the most pride in was extremely sad. The same goes for the scene where she forgot where the bathroom was; the desperation and shame in her eyes was heart-wrenching.
Alice is written to be a bit saint-like, in my opinion, and I guess that’s why people felt that this performance was lacking as compared to some of Moore’s other performances. If you compare her to the many layers of Cathy Whitaker, the electrifying intensity of Laura Brown, or the oddness of Amber Waves, Alice Howland can seem a bit boring. Yet I still felt that Moore utilized what she had to her fullest advantage, trying to show as many different sides of the character as she could. While she may have come off as pushy when she’s trying to convince Lydia (Stewart) to go to college, or when she’s trying to convince her husband to take a year off, you can still sense Alice’s desire to have some form of control over the major decisions in her life and her loved ones. It was sad watching her trying to tidy up the loose ends before she loses everything, like a dying person preparing for his final moments in life.
Another aspect of Moore’s performance that I love is how Alice handles the character’s disease with pride and grace. There was never one moment where I felt she was screaming or crying for my attention and sympathy, even during the character’s breakdowns. One of the highlights of her performance comes from the speech, where she describes living every moment and how she is struggling, not suffering. I loved the entire moment of that speech as I thought she captured what kind of person Alice really was: a strong and intelligent woman who refuses to give in to her disease but to face it with grace and dignity.
Of course, it’s easy to criticise this performance over Rosamund Pike’s electrifying turn in Gone Girl or Marion Cotillard’s fantastic performance in Two Days, One Night, but believe it or not, I loved Julianne Moore’s performance as Alice Howland! I’m a Juli-loonie of course, and while I admit that her performance is not overly complex or haunting (as compared to her best works), I think it’s like a well-written poem: beautiful, touching and heartbreaking to watch. It’s a career win that I won’t complain too much over, as I still think it’s deserved. 4.5/5.