Sunday, May 10, 2015

Video review: "Still Alice"

Julianne Moore gave the performance of the year in 2014 for her deeply affecting portrait of a woman battling early onset Alzheimer’s in “Still Alice.” She won an Oscar for it -- and every other award on the planet, it seems -- and deserved to.

We’ve seen this sort of role before: Julie Christie in “Away from Her,” for instance. But those movies have usually been about characters in the twilight of their lives. Here we saw a woman in her prime, one who has defined herself by her prodigious intellect, watching her semblance of self slip through her fingers like grains of rice.

She plays Alice Howland, a professor of linguistics at Columbia University. She has a devoted husband (Alec Baldwin), three adult children and is at the pinnacle of her career. Since she is so intelligent, Alice is not unaware that her mental grasp is slipping. She gets lost while jogging around campus, cannot place familiar words, and so on.

Writer/director team (and real-life couple) Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland treat their characters with tenderness and respect. There is not a single sappy moment or false emotion in the entire film.

(I feel compelled to point out that Glatzer wrote and shot the film while enduring his own brave medical struggle with Lou Gehrig’s disease. He passed away this March.)

Many people tend to shy away from these sorts of movies of characters enduring tremendous physical and spiritual struggles. They have so much pain in their own lives, they don’t feel like witnessing more, even if fictional.

But be brave. “Still Alice” is one of the most life-affirming movies I’ve ever seen. There is beauty and truth in that aching.

Video extras are merely adequate, and are the same for Blu-ray and DVD versions.

There are three deleted scenes, and three making-of featurettes: “Directing Alice,” “Finding Alice” and “Interview with Composer Ilan Eshkeri.”



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