In honor of the upcoming Oscars, I plan to review each of the nominees for Best Motion Picture.
First up, is Still Alice because, as Netflix reminds me everyday, I am always a sucker for a film with a strong female lead. Still Alice stars Julianna Moore, who by now has racked up several awards for this film, including the Golden Globe and the Screen Actors' Guild award for best actress. After seeing this movie, I can confidantly say she is deserving of the honors.
[Warning: Spoilers ahead!]
For those that did not know or could not tell by the trailer, Alice is a middle aged woman who is tragically diagnosed with early on-set alzheimers disease. When I first saw the trailer and heard about the praise for this movie, I admit I thought to myself: Not again! Not another movie about someone overcoming or suffering through an illness. It's not that these movies are not important to raise awareness, it's that they are so clearly marked as oscarbait--meaning that you can bet the actors and actresses took these roles in the hopes of reeping the rewards. These oscar nominated films are so typical that they are almost a cliche. Despite all that, Still Alice manages to push past the cliche by portraying the narrative from the perspective of Alice instead of the perspective of her doting family members.
This movie is not a feel good, uplifting tale about how families pull together in hard times. In fact, Alice's husband abandons her in the end, incapable of coping with living with a ghost of his former wife. Yes, there is a family, and yes, some family members are supportive. However, what this movie does so well is to highlight the horrifying awareness those suffering with this disease have in the face of their diagnosis. Several times throughout the movie, Alice knows she is losing her mind, and that is what makes this story so compelling and so utterly depressing (in a good way).
Two scenes strike me as particularly heartbreaking: The first involves Alice getting lost on Columbia's campus, the university she has been teaching at for the bulk of her professional career, and the next takes place in her summer home when she has an accident because she can not find her own bathroom. In both cases, Alice knows that she should be able to recall these surroundings, but she is incapable of processing the information.
As a person, who like Alice, has dedicated her life to the pursuit of knowledge and of higher education, to know that all you have worked to achieve, all the information you have diligently learned, could just disappear in a moment is terrifying. If this movie was meant to raise awareness, it certainly accomplished this feat. At one point, Alice tours a nursing home, where she discovers, to her dismay, that a majority of the residents are women. The likelihood that women will be diagnosed with this disease in their lifetime is high. In fact women in their sixties have a 1 in 6 chance of obtaining this diagnosis. One in six women will be robbed of their memories, their independence, their lives by this disease. Before watching this movie, I would have told you that college professors were relatively safe from contracting Alzheimers because I believed that keeping the mind active through reading or puzzles was a means of prevention. However, Alice has shown us that even the most intelligent and active minds among us are not immune.
So, despite the fact that this movie co-stars K-Stew, who on a side note does manage to display more than one facial expression in this film (extraordinary, I know!), I have to give it 4 out of 5 popcorn buckets.