Uptown Theatre, Chicago, IL

Uptown Theatre, Chicago, IL
Uptown Theatre, Chicago, IL

21 February 2015

Still Alice

Although the movies nominated for Best Picture this year would seem to suggest that the only lives worth narrating on the screen are the lives of men (the vast majority of whom are white), there have been some wonderful films that focus on the lives of women this year. Wildwhich i've already written about on this blog, is one of them. Still Alice is another. 

I saw Still Alice yesterday and recommend it very highly. I woke up this morning still thinking about it (my litmus test for good movies). Julianne Moore's performance as a brilliant academic diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's is devastating (I would still like to see Marion Cotillard win Best Actress but will not be disappointed if Julianne Moore (or Reese Witherspoon) wins instead). To watch this acclaimed professor of Linguistics struggling to remember the right word, slowly losing her ability to communicate, is tragic. I held off on seeing the movie for a long time because i have such a terrible fear of developing Alzheimer's and being stuck here on this planet, unable to make a graceful exit. But i'm glad i finally saw it. 

The movie very much rests on Moore's capable shoulders. It's not an easy thing for a movie to recreate the disorientation and panic of a mind that can no longer be relied on. The film uses a lot of extremely soft focus to represent Alice's confused mental state. In one memorable scene, it is only her face that we see clearly, while the familiar landscape of Columbia University, where she has taught for many years, dissolves into an unintelligible blur. But there is only so much that can be conveyed by manipulating the camera's focus. Ultimately, the narrative must depend on the character's face, her posture, her failing diction, to tell the story, and Moore does this beautifully.

The scenes between Moore and Kristen Stewart, who plays her youngest daughter, were especially touching to me in a personal way: their relationship reminded me a little of my often bumpy relationship with my own mother in my youth. I'm sure that other viewers will relate to their situation as well. And i just want to say here and now, in public, that i like Kristen Stewart. I am sorry that she was ever cast in those silly Twilight movies that seem to have made a lot of people hate her; and i'm very happy that i've never seen them. Instead, i remember her as that young girl who was so captivating in Into the Wild. It wasn't a big role, but it was lovely and memorable. And her performance in this film is very good as well.

As much as i enjoy watching movies of almost all kinds and as much as i am looking forward to watching the Academy Awards tomorrow night, i have just one thing to say this year: Oscars be damned! There are some very good movies about women out there. Get out there and see them!

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