Monday, December 15, 2014

Julianne Moore Is STILL ALICE

Julianne Moore has long been one of my favorite actresses, one who really stretches herself in independent films.  She knocked me out when I saw her as the suburban California housewife who is allergic to just about everything around her in the 1995 movie, Safe.  Moore was excellent as the maternal member of a dysfunctional family of West Coast porn stars in Boogie Nights (1997), the privileged 1950s Connecticut housewife with a fractured marriage who begins a tender yet taboo friendship with a black man in Far From Heaven (2002), the lovably insecure and dorky lesbian mom in The Kids Are All Right (2010) and she hit a bullseye on HBO as Sarah Palin in Game Change (2012).

Those are a few of the fine performance Julianne Moore has delivered.  There are others.  Moore's performance in Still Alice is some of her finest film work ever.

You may be able to find Still Alice in arthouse movie theaters.  It's not a big studio nationwide release like her other current film, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay starring Jennifer Lawrence.  In Still Alice, Julianne Moore stars as a university professor in New York City, a vibrant intellectual of middle age, who is diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease.  The professor has a husband and three grown children.  Alec Baldwin plays her husband.  Kristen Stewart plays her youngest daughter, an aspiring actress with a touch of the rebel about her.  Alice and her husband are both cosmopolitan professionals.
Moore doesn't have huge, theatrical scenes.  She just gradually shows you a relatively young, active and vital woman empty out and mentally wither away yet appear to be herself.  She breaks your heart.  Instead of big scenes there are smaller moments that pack a greater punch because of their realism.  You see the slight occasional instances of forgetting which could be passed off as common.  Those instances slowly snowball into a big mental blank.  Like the moment where Alice stands in complete humiliation because she couldn't remember where the bathroom is in her house.  Alice is a good mother.

I know that Kristen Stewart is a new young star but I couldn't really heat up to the star of Twilight vampire tales because of her constant Sad Sack face.  Here, that face is utilized to great effect.  It's totally right for her rebellious yet loyal character.  There's a mist of Terms of Endearment in this mother-daughter relationship.  In the relationship with her children after Alice reveals her health challenge, we see how immediate family members can treat one's crisis as an inconvenience to their leisure time rather than as an opportunity for them to be of service and help.  It's as if they want their lives to be one long piece of linen and your misfortune puts a wrinkle in it.  They resent that wrinkle.

Someone who's been very sweet to me for a long time was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's.  B. Smith is the groundbreaking former model who went on to host her own syndicated home entertainment and style info show.  She wrote books.  She was a contributor on local WNBC news and ran a very popular restaurant in  New York City's Broadway theatre district.  B. Smith's, her restaurant, had great food and I took visiting friends there frequently.  Most of the times I chatted with the charming, charismatic and gracious Barbara was in her restaurant.

I had been wondering why I'd not seen her for quite a long time in the restaurant.
She went public this year with her diagnosis on CBS Sunday Morning.  We tend to think of the illness as one that strikes senior citizens -- people well over 70.  B. Smith is not a senior over 70.  Neither is the happily married Alice as portrayed by Julianne Moore.

Moore has that talent for being able to play upscale women with a working class approach to the character.  With a hightone actress, you might not care as much.  Alice and her Manhattan family members are so upscale and privileged that you might not feel a connection to them.  Alice and her husband are the kind of folks who'd specifically go to Whole Foods because they're out of kale and quinoa.  They have a summer home.  But Moore is an actress who gives off an affection for the moviegoer whose summer home is also his or her winter, spring and fall home.  You get the feeling that Julianne Moore has known nights of Hamburger Helper meals for dinner.  Dinners that she made.  You feel that she's basically one of us.  We feel like we know her.  We connect to her.  In this performance, you really don't see her acting.  You see her being Alice.

If you're also a Julianne Moore fan, put this one on your must-see list.  But be prepared to be heartbroken.  Moore gives an absolutely beautiful, touching performance in Still Alice.

1 comment:

  1. Moore is my favorite actress who has yet to win an Academy Award, hands down. Her time will come. I hope it is this year for STILL ALICE. Though I have yet to see the film, I am pulling for her anyways and judging from your review, I know she delivers another standout performance. Even in her first movie appearance(a small role as a nurse in the 1993 Harrison Ford thriller THE FUGITIVE), she grabs your attention.


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