REVIEW: Tragedy of Still Alice Surprisingly (or Refreshingly) Cold

I put off seeing Still Alice for as long as I could.  I just felt it would be too painful to watch.  Although I sometimes feel like I’m losing my mind, I don’t want to see someone who is really losing theirs.  It doesn’t help that Alzheimer’s runs in my family.  Of course, it hasn’t always been called that.  People used to just be “senile” when they got to a certain age.  For a while, I believed that would happen to everyone at some point.

Now, though, it’s a disease, and one for which there is currently no cure.  It makes it scarier knowing that it’s something that could one day be treated instead of something that’s inevitable.  I’m not usually a hypochondriac, but I’ll admit when I can’t remember someone’s name, I wonder if I have Alzheimer’s.  That’s not Alice Howland (Julianne Moore) and her husband John’s (Alec Baldwin) first reaction.  They think memory loss is just something that naturally happens with age.

Twenty minutes into the movie, Still Alice peaked for me when Alice let’s that notion go and realizes she’s got it, but John refuses to believe it.  That moment of absolute despair that comes with acknowledgement is more sad to me than actually seeing her go through the stages of the disease and get worse. For writer/directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, that may be by design.  It’s very much Alice’s story, not her family’s, so we don’t see much of their grief.

That’s the way the book was.  I read it to ease me into watching the movie.  I really liked the way the story was told from Alice’s perspective, even though it wasn’t written in first person.  I don’t think the movie is as successful in duplicating that perspective.  I mean, Alice can’t be narrating her own story when she’s losing her mind, so we have to rely on the visuals.  As incredible as her performance is, it doesn’t convey the same information as the book.

So I struggle to recommend it.  I think it’s a perfectly fine movie that you almost have to see because of Moore’s Oscar-winning performance.  As for the movie itself, I’m not sure what I took from it.  Like I said, the focus is not on how the family deals with her, so there’s no emotional connection with them in order to share their pain.  Neither is there an uplifting ending to show that we can overcome any obstacle; it’s not a feel-good movie.

It’s really just a matter of fact look at one woman who built her career around education and language, and ironically gets a disease that takes those away for her first.  It’s sad for her, but it didn’t affect me the way I feared it would.  That could also be a good thing about Still Alice exactly because it doesn’t try to manipulate your feelings.  You have to discover what your emotions are all on your own, or even if you have any about what happens to her.

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