'Still Alice': What the Critics Are Saying
Julianne Moore stars as professor with Alzheimer's alongside Kristen Stewart, Alec Baldwin, Kate Bosworth and Hunter Parrish
Still Alice stars Julianne Moore as a college professor diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's in the awards-buzzing adaptation of Lisa Genova's best-selling 2007 novel, which focuses less on the destructive effect of the disease on relationships and much more on how one woman experiences her own deteriorating condition.
Written and directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, the Sony Pictures Classics drama also features Kristen Stewart, Alec Baldwin, Kate Bosworth and Hunter Parrish.
Read what top critics are saying about Still Alice:
The Hollywood Reporter's Deborah Young writes, "Although not known for daring cinematic fireworks or experimentation, the directors tackle a subject where a restrained, understated approach is the best insurance against sloppy sentimentality. It pays off handsomely in the film’s closing moments, a poignant, poetic confrontation between the generations that draws the best from Moore and reveals unexpected depth in Stewart. The film's extremely personal feeling is surely related to the fact that Glatzer directed it while undergoing a health crisis of his own — after being diagnosed with ALS, he had to co-direct the movie on an iPad using a text-to-speech app."
Moore delivers "a career-high performance, driving straight to the terror of the disease and its power to wipe out personal certainties and identity" as the film places "all the emphasis on Moore’s face and reactions, her vulnerability seesawing with her strength. This insider’s account would be a tall order for any actor to fill without resorting to sentimentality or falling into the obvious, but she never loses control of the film for a second." Additionally, "tech work remains humbly in the background, all in the service of keeping the spotlight focused on Moore and mimicking her feelings with an out-of-focus camera, costumes she no longer chooses herself and so on."
The New York Times' A. O. Scott calls it "a movie that addresses a nightmarish circumstance with calm, compassionate sensitivity," thanks to Moore's "exquisitely nuanced performance. ... She conveys both the collapse of Alice’s inner world and the panic it causes. The structure of her face seems to change from scene to scene, as her eyes grow duller, her mouth and jaw slacker. As she did in Safe, she finds a way to communicate the pathos of emptiness." Also notable is Stewart as her daughter: "The success of the Twilight movies has allowed Stewart’s gifts to be underrated, but her more recent roles (here, in Camp X-Ray and in Clouds of Sils Maria, which will open next year) should help re-establish her as an insightful and unpredictable talent." However, "The problem is that the film, concentrating on the accurate portrayal of Alice’s condition, leaves the other characters undeveloped, and their social and domestic milieu hastily sketched. ...The story is sad and sincerely told, but it is too removed from life to carry the full measure of pain that Alice deserves."
Los Angeles Times' Kenneth Turan says, "[Moore's] work as someone coping with the ravages of the unthinkable deserves all the plaudits it's going to get. But if it wasn't for costar Stewart, who plays Alice's daughter Lydia, Still Alice wouldn't be nearly as emotionally effective as it is. Moore and Stewart have been off-screen friends for more than a decade, and that bond only enhances the work they do here. ... Elements of its plot have the standard quality of a Hallmark production, and the work of some of the film's costars is a bit too on the nose. But, with Moore and Stewart on the case, we feel the presence of something real here, something that can't be shrugged off or ignored."
New York Observer's Rex Reed explains, "You go away feeling educated, enlightened and more compassionate than you can possibly imagine. ... Moore shares her journey with boundless generosity. She makes you feel what it’s like to lose the wind beneath your wings." Glatzer and Westmoreland "have extracted a nuanced and sensitively embroidered performance that is inventive without the slightest hint of contrivance. Through immeasurable loss, she shows how life can be sustained if we can only learn the value of negotiating our priorities and weighing our limitations until love is all that matters. It’s a hell of a lesson in one hell of a motion picture."
USA Today's Claudia Puig calls it "understated yet moving" as Moore "powerfully captures the growing confusion caused by the debilitating illness. ... Some plot points feel contrived, and a few supporting parts, particularly her older daughter Anna (Bosworth), don't ring as true as Moore's. But Stewart's performance as Lydia, Alice's black-sheep daughter, is one of her best. She evolves from self-absorbed to the most caring and tenderhearted of Alice's children."