Still Alice

Julianne Moore’s portrayal of Columbia University linguistics professor Alice Howland is riveting and affecting but, regrettably, weighed down by a story that is cold and distancing. I don’t think it means to be. Directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland have taken Lisa Genova’s novel of a brilliant mind succumbing to the ravages of early onset Alzheimer’s Disease, wrapped it in downy fabrics and set it by a fire. It’s a loving gesture but it dulls the edge this film so desperately needs. It’s an extended Hallmark moment. The agony of Howland’s mental uncoupling feels rear enough, yes, but it’s softened by her station as a world-renowned Ivy League researcher who is married to a  supportive doctor (Alec Baldwin) and surrounded by accomplished children (Kate Bosworth, Kristen Stewart and Hunter Parrish). I suppose we are to mourn the loss of her teaching position, the obliteration of her memory of her family and the closing of her mind to their love but it all feels safe — tragic, yes, but still safe. It is clear she’ll never be found wandering the streets of New York lost and without identity or left to wither near a window in a nursing home — as is the case with too many of those struggling with Alzheimer’s. Such a fate is foreshadowed but it is never a real threat and more’s the pity for this sober but unsatisfying film.


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