What might have been a touching look at how a close-knit family deals with tragedy in the wake of the mother’s early onset Alzheimer’s diagnosis becomes a trite farce that twists the emotional knife in the backs of its viewers during the independent drama “Still Alice.”
The film is most notable for Julianne Moore’s Oscar-winning performance as a 50-year-old linguistics professor who slowly loses her memory and capacity to function normally due to the disease.
There’s nothing wrong with her performance, though this year’s Best Actress win feels more like a career achievement award than the highest praise for her work in “Still Alice.” In a 100-minute film where one lead takes up 90 percent of the screen time, it’s hard not to feel dominated by Moore’s performance.
As a viewer, there is a strong sense that the audience is being cheated by the script based on the novel of the same name by Lisa Genova.
There are only flashes of the rest of Alice’s family throughout the film, and all of the impact of what helping someone with Alzheimer’s is like has been lost in the shuffle.
Actors like Alec Baldwin, as Alice’s husband, and Kate Bosworth, as the eldest daughter, are given cursory nods and only the broadest of character brushstrokes with which to work from.
Even though he isn’t, it feels as if Baldwin’s husband character is cheating on Alice, and the audience by proxy, while being chopped off at the knees and forced to be the bad guy in a film that doesn’t need one.
While Moore’s work is good, Kristen Stewart, as the youngest daughter — separated from the rest of her family both emotionally and physically — gives the most impactful performance.
Given her previous body of work, Stewart will almost certainly not be given the credit she deserves for a uniquely layered performance in a film devoid of depth. There’s so much emotion on the surface of Stewart’s Lydia, while simultaneously, viewers can feel the undercurrent of secret emotions that Lydia feels internally while struggling to accept her mother’s fate.
“Still Alice” is definitely one of those Oscar-baiting films that cares more about the viewers with Academy votes than the audiences who will end up seeing the film now that it has won gold.
Aside from ardent fans of Moore, audiences will likely, and should, feel cheated by a subpar shell of quality drama.