BOY CULTURE RATING: *** out of ****
In Still Alice, an articulate, accomplished linguistics professor (Julianne Moore) begins to forget things. She gets lost. She repeats herself. She suspects she could have a brain tumor, but the real answer is even more devastating—at the age of 50, she has early-onset Alzheimer's disease.
Her workaholic husband (Alec Baldwin), handsome son (Hunter Parrish) and warring daughters—one archly perfect (Kate Bosworth), one studiously rebellious (Kristen Stewart)—have to cope with this out-of-the-blue development, and must make choices about their own lives and about the woman who is at the core of their family.
Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland were hired to adapt the film from Lisa Genova's highly regarded novel of the same name, and wound up directing it. The partners in creativity and in love have crafted a no-frills, achingly intimate document of what often is a breathtakingly swift decline, one which allows Moore precious little space in which to do anything more than be. The result is a moving, unaffected, ephemeral performance of the type for which she is renowned, and a performance which could become the one that finally brings her the Oscar she's richly deserved for many years.
Baldwin, always so good, may have burned himself with his long stint on 30 Rock and as a frequent SNL host; he has snarky resting face, which distracts from his character and from the film. Stewart, on the other hand, gives a mature performance that perfectly complements Moore's. The others aren't really fleshed out enough to judge.
Ultimately, the film is so hands-off it sometimes feels a little underdeveloped. That hurts it as an overall artistic statement, making it feel like an unadorned TV movie at times, but that approach does nothing to damage Moore and Stewart's effortless shared depth.
As a postscript: It may surprise some to know that Westmoreland's directing career was launched in gay porn in the '90s, and that his work with Glatzer includes the broadly comic The Fluffer (2001), set in that milieu. Less of a surprise is that the men co-directed the affecting drama Quinceañera in 2006.