Still Alice

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The name Alice pops up in the title of some great songs: Alice’s Restaurant, All the Girls Love Alice, and Go Ask Alice (okay, that’s titled “White Rabbit” but close enough). The bands Sisters of Mercy, Cocteau Twins, Alice Cooper, Stevie Nicks, and Tom Waits all have songs called “Alice.”

The movie Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is a classic.

I hate the title Still Alice. And I hated the fact that this melodramatic picture is one of many movies that falls into the overrated of 2014 category. It’s really a Lifetime picture, that really only deserves to be talked about because it stars one of the best actresses around – Julianne Moore. It’s a sure bet she’ll win the Oscar for this role. She’s been nominated before and hasn’t won, and she’s playing somebody with a disease.

Her character is Dr. Alice Howard, a psychologist who gets early onset Alzheimer’s disease. It’s something I wasn’t aware could even happen to a person. The early stages of it were fascinating. She’s trying to explain to her husband (Alec Baldwin) how she keeps forgetting things, and he tries to reassure her that everybody does by saying, “I spend an hour trying to remember the word ‘glucose’ the other day. It happens to everyone.”

Even watching the doctor give her a little quiz where he has to repeat things he told her was interesting. She’s proud at some things she remembers, and acts cavalier about the things she can’t recall (the name of a street he just told her two minutes earlier).

The fact that she’s a neuroscientist/linguist that has Alzheimer’s is perhaps done for a bit or irony, but came across as a goofy movie ploy.

When she starts making videos she can watch in the future – I thought of the Nicole Kidman movie from a few months earlier, a Michael Keaton movie from decades ago, and it all just starts grating on your nerves.

A few of the scenes worked wonderfully, though. Baldwin is a caring husband, but also gets impatient at times. There are ways she does games to try and improve her memory. That will have you wondering if others that have Alzheimer’s do this. I had also never thought about what it was like in the early stages. She’s having dinner with her family and enjoying herself, yet you can see a subtle sadness in her face…knowing in a few months she might not remember any of them.

The movie “jumps the shark” in so many other ways, though. All the children have such different personalities. Lydia (Kristen Stewart) is the one we see most. She’s a struggling actress, which is funny, considering how often people joke about Stewart not being a very good actress. She does convey a tenderness that’s sweet, and I like that they don’t go over-the-top with her previous rebelliousness.

There were a number of times where you’d watch Baldwin and Moore and think – they’re acting. You aren’t thinking of the characters they are playing.

The whole thing was rather hackneyed.

The film had two directors and three screenwriters (based on a best-selling novel), and they couldn’t give us something that didn’t feel like a made-for-TV movie.

There are scenes where the piano keys come in on the score, or the strings coming up as she gives a “profound” speech. The music was a maudlin mess.

This gets 1 ½ stars out of 5.