|Hanky Honking Alzheimer's Soap/Slop|
Dir. Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland
Starring: Julianne Moore, Kristen Stewart, Alec Baldwin, Kate Bosworth
Review By Greg Klymkiw
If watching the great Julianne Moore stumble about in an early-onset cloud of Alzheimer's Disease turns your crank, have I got a movie for you! For me, there's a greater disappointment than watching Moore give her all in a shamelessly by-the-numbers disease-of-the-week movie.
Seeing as she stars with Robert Pattinson (Twilight's Edward) in David Cronenberg's Maps to the Stars and Kristen Stewart (Twilight's Bella) in Still Alice, I was kind of hoping for a Julianne Moore Twilight hat-trick this year, but alas, there appears to be no movie at TIFF 2014, nor anywhere on the immediate horizon in which she co-stars with (a preferably shirtless) Taylor Lautner (Twilight's Jacob). I, for one, would have been thrilled to bits if an adult remake of Shark Boy and Lava Girl with Moore and Lautner had surfaced for this very purpose. It was, however, not to be.
What we get is Moore in Cronenberg's creepy, brilliant magnifying glass hovering over the emptiness of contemporary Hollywood and sadly, Moore coupled with the dour and increasingly unwatchable Kristen Stewart in a glorified disease-of-the-week movie that has no business unspooling in major film festivals, much less any big-screen venue.
And make no mistake, Still Alice is wretched - so much so that it actually doesn't hold a candle to some of the best disease-weepies from the 70s movies-of-the-week, which offered up one Camille-like sobber-o-rama after another for the edification of North American housewives not satiated with their afternoon overdoses of soaps on the television and thus allowing them to sit on their plastic-covered chesterfields adorned in curlers stuffing bonbons down their gullets twixt a few solid honks into their hankies.
So do it, ladies (and gents of the appropriate persuasion): don those curlers and pop those chocky-treats into thine respective maws (loaded up with plenty o' Kleenex). You'll be well-equipped to waste more of your lives. Moore plays a brilliant linguist who turns 50 and still has a glorious life and career ahead of her. She's married to a wildly successful Alec Baldwin, a handsome (albeit with a paunch) doctor. On top of this, the lady's got three grown up kids. Two of the three are making her mighty proud. One of them is going to be a lawyer (and is a twin-popping, happily married breeder) and the other, a promising young doctor in med school. The one disappointment to Moore is - you guessed it - Kristen Stewart. She wants to be an actress (in this movie, not real life). It doesn't take the movie long to have Julianne forgetting a whole whack of stuff and when she's diagnosed with Alzheimer's, all hell breaks loose.
Adding even more fodder to inspire tear-gushing and snot-dribbling is that Julianne's strain of Alzheimer's is genetic which means - you guessed it - all three of her kids are prime candidates for the same thing. Oh, woe!
The movie goes through all the motions of our gal getting worse, but trying desperately to hold onto remnants of her sanity. And guess what? The disappointing child, turns out to be a champ and her closest ally during this horrendous time. Who'd a thunk it, eh?
Moore is, of course, terrific. Anyone who knows anyone with Alzheimer's will see a whole lot of truth in the performance she delivers, but that's simply not enough to carry a picture that's so ploddingly predictable and jam-packed with all manner of hackneyed elements. Directors and screenwriters Glatzer and Westmoreland manage, between the two of the them, to serve up all the requisite cliches with very little resembling a discernible style beyond standard camera jockeying.
Adapted from a bestselling novel (which I've happily not read), Still Alice scores points for being about adults and not full of chases and explosions, but it's reverted to the more egregious elements of filmic storytelling for mature audiences. It's not only pure soap suds, but its melodramatic qualities are marched out in the most by-rote fashion imaginable. What seems even more horrific is that after 20+ years of astonishing work as an actress, Moore finally stands a good chance of winning a coveted Oscar for good work in a terrible picture.
The movie does attempt to add a veneer of poeticism, especially during its final minutes, but it's too little too late and frankly, feels false within the context of the rest of the picture. All through Still Alice, I kept thinking, "Yeah, Moore is great, but so what?" This thought, of course, was in the context of Todd Haynes' masterpiece Safe, made 20 years ago (!!!) and starring Moore as a woman afflicted with massive environmental illnesses. That was truly poetic and harrowing and never once conceded to the needs of standard, obvious plot points and dialogue to make the whole thing audience-friendly. On its own, Still Alice stinks, but in contrast to Safe it's as bad a picture as one could ever imagine.
Oh, and not only is it dreadful, but it's sickeningly bourgeois. Moore and her family get to suffer in expensive homes, cottages and all adorned in the finery of the nouveau riche. I guess this is what makes the suffering palatable. God knows poor people are never afflicted with this horrendous disease and if they were, I can't imagine anyone wanting to make or see it.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: *½ One-and-a-half Stars
Still Alice is a Special Presentation at TIFF 2014.
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