Thursday, 4 December 2014

REVIEW - STILL ALICE (RICHARD GLATZER AND WASH WESTMORELAND)


There is beauty, sadness and horror abundant in Still Alice, an account of the mental deterioration of one woman due to Alzheimer's - beauty, sadness and horror that exist innately within that account. Directing their adaptation of Lisa Genova's novel, Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland exhibit deep sympathy and respect for their character - Alice, the afflicted college professor, is in every scene, despite the difficulties in making one's protagonist so mentally distant - yet little appreciation of the method of rendering this account as something cinematically viable. Although Still Alice's narrative purview is narrow, this is not the concern. What blights the film is Glatzer's and Westmoreland's sense of its purpose, how it could be categorised, what defines it. Their style is brash and theatrical; whilst straining for delicacy, this makes for an ill fit. They've made a film that turns middle-class appropriation of cultural content into its own, supposedly legitimate, style of filmmaking, but expanding on such a shallow pool of influence deprives their film of any tangible original character. That's not as great a concern, though, as it might have been were their intentions not beyond reproach. Still Alice amounts to a long, painful stare deep inside a mind whose own depth is swiftly evaporating. It's a fussy, fragmented, contrived picture Glatzer and Westmoreland paint, one that has the very distinct appearance of a TV Movie of the Week, but its heart is strong and true, and it's in the film's heart that the beauty, sadness and horror are communicated. And at its heart are the actors: each of the principals gives a smart, understated performance, but particular credit must go to Julianne Moore as Alice, for leaving as indelible an impression as she always does, with remarkably little apparent effort or transformation.