Still Alice Blu-ray Review

     Actors: Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, Hunter Parrish
  • Directors: Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland
  • Format: Blu-ray, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: May 12, 2015
  • Run Time: 101 minutes



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              There is an irritating trend occurring at the Academy Awards each year; the films that earn Best Actor/Actress nominations and wins have the tendency to walk away with no other awards. One less cynical than I am may assume that this is the Academy’s way of spreading out the accolades, but I see it as the film industry’s way of pandering to the award season with films that are singularly performance pieces. These tend to be indulgent roles which focus on little other than showcasing the star’s acting abilities, particularly if they gain/lose weight, drastically change their appearance in another way, or play some type of mental/physical disability. As spectacular as Julianne Moore’s performance in Still Alice may be, not to mention deserving of the Best Actress Oscar she received, the film surrounding her feels incomplete. Other characters get lost in the shuffle and the male characters are as horribly underwritten as is typically the case of female ones in Hollywood. Does the feminist backlash in cinema have to come at the cost of properly developed male roles? Can’t we have both in one film?

     

             The film begins with a series of sequences to show the happy and established life of linguistics professor Alice Howland (Moore), only to spend the remainder of the running-time watching it all fade away. Alice is diagnosed with a rare type of the Alzheimer’s disease, causing a woman whose career is contingent upon an understanding of communication to suddenly begin forgetting words. Her personal life is also in danger as Alice becomes more reliant on the help and support of those who love her. With three grown children (Kate Bosworth, Hunter Parrish, and Kristen Stewart) and a loving husband (Alec Baldwin), this should not be as much of a problem as the narrative makes it. Much of the conflict in this second half of the narrative comes from Alice’s husband’s unwillingness to put his illustrious medical career on hold to care for his ailing wife. Needless to say, this role ends up feeling more discordant than the initial set-up seemed to suggest, and Baldwin is asked to play another flatly written husband role, not entirely dissimilar to the one he played against last year’s Best Actress winner in Blue Jasmine.  

     

            The remainder of familial response tends to remain interested in the polar responses to the disease from Alice’s two daughters, while her son is only given a single scene sitting passively in an audience listening to Alice speak about her condition as a show of support. Though I can’t understand or appreciate why this role was not as fully developed as the other children, Parrish makes the most out of the opportunity by giving one of the best performances of his career. Bosworth’s Anna is also somewhat one-dimensional, playing the uptight daughter who manages to make the disease as much about herself as Alice, especially when they receive news that it is hereditary.

     

            One of the film’s best developed relationships comes in the form of Alice’s youngest daughter, Lydia (Stewart), whose response is refreshingly different from the rest of the family. From the beginning she is seen to be the black sheep of the successful family, struggling with a futile acting career while her parents and siblings have found success in high paying jobs and advancement through higher education. Somehow this artistic sensitivity also makes her a much more ideal candidate for empathizing with her mother, especially when all the rest have chosen to focus on their own lives instead. Although Still Alice is a wonderful performance piece, it may have been a more complete and developed film had this relationship taken more focus. The screenplay often feels disjointed, utilizing many of the other characters as a device for Alice’s narrative, whereas the relationship between her and Lydia never hits a false note.

     

            Exclusive to the Blu-ray release are 3 deleted scenes, an interview with composer Ilan Eshkeri, and a featurette about the approach from co-writers and directors, Wash Westmoreland and the late Richard Glatzer. Additionally in the extras is a behind-the-scenes featurette looking at Alzheimer’s from experts along with cast and crew members. A Digital HD copy of the film is also included with the Blu-ray release.    

     

    Entertainment Value: 7/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 7.5/10

    Historical Significance:  7.5/10

    Special Features: 6.5/10




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