Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Still Alice

So, here's a perfectly fine movie about Early Onset Alzheimers—I think, pretty soon, every actress will have to have a dementia/Alzheimer's based role, sort of like cancer in the '80s—which earned Julianne Moore an Oscar, and which, more or less, annoyed me.

Moore plays a distinguished linguist teaching at Columbia, while her cancer researching husband—he's trying to cure it, I think, not cause—researches cancer at the ivy league school when suddenly she loses her marbles. And, unlike regular Alzheimer's, Early Onset really is pretty sudden.

The movie chronicles her descent into mindlessness.

She has two perfect kids, and Kristen Stewart, who—if I gather this correctly—trades her sexual favors and her dad's money for a chance to perform on stage in dubious venues in L.A. That's the real stretch in this movie: Casting Stewart as an actress, amirite? Heyooo!

Actually, she's pretty good in this, which isn't something I say lightly.

Anyway, it all plays out in a really predictable fashion, with the Alzheimer's putting a crimp in her and hubby's lifestyle, and the discussions about what to do when she's really lost it, complete with her leaving herself a suicide plan. Although it's sort of more like a murder attempt, really.

Of course, I've seen this movie before. A lot. I became annoyed with this rendition, however, because Alec and Julianne are playing this ultimate "elite" fantasy couple, and I felt like the movie was expecting us to be extra-sympathetic because they had this perfect life. And wasn't it so ironic that a linguist, of all people, should lose her facility with words?

And then, to top it all off, she and daughter Stewart end up bonding over the plays the latter might possibly be in, and (natch) pick "Angels In America". Because "we all lost someone". How perfect.

Obviously, I'm not the target audience. (That would be The Academy.) And it's fine. Really.

But when we learn Moore's backstory (her mother and sister killed in car crash 35 years ago, father an alcoholic, dead for 15 years) and that her condition is congenital and her father may have had it, I thought maybe there'd be some sympathy for this guy who didn't have the perfect life, and who may have drunk himself to death in reaction to his condition but, no, it's just a footnote.

And then there's the whole husband-having-his-golden-chance thing. At a critical moment, he's offered a spot at the Mayo clinic. Obviously, she doesn't want to leave since she's having trouble hanging on to the few things she does remember. And I'm thinking, "Well, the Mayo clinic? Maybe they, I dunno, have some ideas?"

I think, on reflection, I found their relationship amazingly unsatisfying. I guess I can't fault it for realism, in the sense of "Well, some 30-years-married husbands would just let this roll off their backs." That probably happens. Doesn't make for great narrative, I think.

Maybe I'm just a sourpuss: This has a whopping 90/86 on RT, so you'll probably like it. I can think, offhand, of similar movies I liked as well if not more: Away From HerTickling Leo, and probably my recent favorite of the genre, Still Mine, to say nothing of any of the documentaries.

This is probably the highest grossing Alzheimer's/dementia movie, though, having taken in over $15M, dwarfing its nearest competitor (Away From Her which I suspect is the next nearest competitor made only about $5M.)

Moore didn't really deserve the Oscar for this, but I guess the common wisdom is that she didn't actually win it for this.

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