Stalked By A Fiend Worse Than Any Elm Street Nightmare

Dec 9, 2014
Originally published on December 15, 2014 12:42 pm
Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

One of the most talked-about movie performances of the year involves a woman facing a disease commonly associated with older Americans, Alzheimer's. In "Still Alice," Julianne Moore plays a woman who is relatively young, a renowned linguistics professor who finds herself losing words. Film critic Kenneth Turan has this review.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: "Still Alice" is scarier than any Elm Street nightmare. It's a horror film for the rest of us, but splendid acting makes watching it worth the fright. The accomplished Julianne Moore stars as 50-year-old academic Alice Howland who has to cope with the ravages of early onset Alzheimer's disease.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "STILL ALICE")

JULIANNE MOORE: (As Alice Howland) On my good days, I can, you know, almost pass for normal person. But on my bad days, I feel like I can't find myself.

TURAN: Elements of this film's plot do have a standard, disease-of-the-week quality, but we feel the presence of something real that can't be shrugged off or ignored. Moore is so expert at aberrational characters that we don't get enough chances to see her as we do in this movie, playing a normal, yet still involving woman. Moore is especially good at the wordless elements, allowing us to see, through the changing contours of her face, what it's like when your mind empties out. For the heart of "Still Alice" is the wrenching business of watching as all the things that define this woman to herself and her family gradually drain away, one by one by one.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "STILL ALICE")

MOORE: (As Alice Howland) I've always been so defined by my intellect, my language, my articulation, and now sometimes I can see the words hanging in front of me. And I can't reach them, and I don't know who I am. And I don't know what I'm going to lose next.

TURAN: Aside from Moore, "Still Alice" is especially fortunate to have Kristen Stewart, who brings her trademark intensity to the part of Lydia, a daughter determined to do things her own way. Moore and Stewart have been off-screen friends for more than a decade, and that bond only enhances the work they do here. Though it doesn't say so in so many words, "Still Alice" wants you to remember that its title is only one letter off from still alive. Alice is struggling to be who she once was, and that is a battle we have to respect, no matter what.

MONTAGNE: The film is "Still Alice." Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.