Julianne Moore is arguably one of the best actresses of her generation and has worked with a plethora of the best actors and directors in her illustrious career. Despite her strengths and her numerous nominations in the past, she has lacked in awards success until now, winning a BAFTA and an Academy Award for her latest role in ‘Still Alice’. Directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland and based on Lisa Genova’s novel of the same name, the drama centres around linguistics professor Dr. Alice Howland who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease at the age of fifty. With her family around her, including caring husband John (Alec Baldwin) and youngest daughter Lydia (Kristen Stewart), she faces up to her illness bravely as her grip on life and her memory disintegrates.
The process of Alice’s deterioration lends a slow, meandering pace to the film and it is largely uneventful in terms of the narrative. Instead, it is very much a character driven plot, and anchored by Julianne Moore’s performance as we see Alice come to terms with her condition. When she is on the ball, she is as sharp as they come and is very eloquent, articulated and professional is the way she presents herself. This means that the minute signs of weakness in her memory are easily spotted when they begin to creep in and each stage of her mental downfall is filled with emotion. In an attempt to combat the decline, Alice uses her smart-phone as a helpful tool. This can be heavily related to one of the directors Glatzer who relies on an app to communicate because of his battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
The relationships within her family dynamic aren’t straightforward, and take the strain as Alice becomes increasingly dependent on her loved ones. I felt as though casting Alec Baldwin as the husband was strange as his characters usually possess negative qualities. On the whole, here he is the doting partner despite a few selfish flaws. Kristen Stewart impresses as Alice’s wayward teenage daughter, shedding her twilight skin to give a mature, moving performance, coping with the loss of the one person who seems to understand her. At the forefront of the success of the film though is Moore’s frighteningly good acting, keeping the frustrations of her character bottled up initially for them to burst out with a flooring impact.
Performances whereby the lead is diagnosed with an illness or disease tend to be popular around awards season, so it makes perfect sense for Julianne Moore to take the gong this time around, given that she had never received this kind of recognition before. After all, the opposite award for best actor went to Eddie Redmayne across the board for his portrayal of MND sufferer Stephen Hawking. She noticeably lifts what without her would be more suited to the TV movie format but in all honesty, I’ve seen stronger turns from Moore. Even in the past year she put in what I thought was a more powerful performance in Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars though that film didn’t have the same Oscar bait clout that ‘Still Alice’ does…and as Oscar bait goes it’s catch of the year.