Still Alice: Moore to love

by Mark Burger

Alice Howland appears to have it all. She’s happily married, recently turned 50 (but still looks exquisite), has three children and is a professor of linguistics at Columbia University.

She’s also suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and her swift and merciless descent into mental oblivion is conveyed in powerful terms in Still Alice, a tearjerker of the first order that maintains a tight grip on the emotions thanks to yet another fine performance by Julianne Moore in the pivotal role.

The actress has earned her fifth Academy Award nomination and her third as Best Actress for Still Alice, and there is a palpable sense that her time has come “” and is perhaps long overdue. She is one of the very few actresses to have received two Oscar nominations in one year “” Best Actress for Far from Heaven and Best Supporting Actress for The Hours in 2002 “” and lost both.

It’s heartbreaking to watch confusion play across Moore’s face as Alice’s condition deteriorates, each look of desperation indicating the battle she is rapidly losing. In one scene, she sits uncomprehendingly as her family decides what’s best for her. They are, for better or worse, moving forward while she, clearly for worse, is left behind “” and falling away faster every day.

Alec Baldwin enjoys one of his best dramatic roles as Alice’s husband John, who’s struggling to maintain career momentum in the face of his wife’s illness. The couple has three children played by Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth and Hunter Parrish. They’re not bad, though Stewart and Bosworth’s sibling bickering pales in light of the big picture. Stewart’s character is also an aspiring actress (art imitates life?), and in one scene appears in a stage production of The Three Sisters. It might be the only time Kristen Stewart and Chekhov will ever encounter each other.

Still Alice could easily have gone the route of a maudlin “disease-of-the-week” TV movie, yet because of the grace and power of Moore’s performance it’s so much more … no pun intended.

Still Alice opens Friday. !