Wednesday, October 1, 2014

More 'Still Alice' Toronto International Film Festival Reviews & Reactions added (Part 1)

| PART 2 |



Here are the FIRST 'Still Alice' reviews & reactions!
#Congrats #Proudfan #Excited #Cantwait

Please keep in mind that reviews can contain spoilers, lots of spoilers, and that negative reviews can be interesting to read.

REVIEWS

•• Toronto Film Festival, Michèle Maheux: Directing duo Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland (The Last of Robin Hood) have a keen knack for rendering individual experience, and in Still Alice they find an ideal subject for their talents. Though other films about Alzheimer's have prioritized its heartbreaking effect on relationships, Glatzer and Westmoreland turn their camera on Alice, detailing her slow decline — and the inventive tactics she employs to delay it — with affecting precision. With impressive performances from the film's supporting cast, which includes Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart and Kate Bosworth, Still Alice will break your heart. But it will also remind you that love is all around you, still.


•• Hitfix, Gregory Ellwood: TORONTO – Julianne Moore has already had quite a year. In May, she surprised many by taking the best actress honor at the Cannes Film Festival for David Cronenberg’s “Map to the Stars.” On Monday night, “Still Alice” premiered at the 2014 Toronto Film Festival and it may feature one of the finest performances of her already illustrious career.

In the hands of the wrong director(s), “Alice” could be overly melodramatic and laced with saccharine moments meant to force a happy ending. Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland won’t let that happen. The duo behind the critically acclaimed “Quinceanera” let “Alice’s” narrative unspool in as restrained a manner as possible. There are no unbelievable hysterics. There are no self-aware screaming matches. Instead, the focus is on Moore’s heartbreaking depiction of a woman slowly losing her focus, her memory and, to some extent, herself.

Glatzer and Westmoreland put an accomplished ensemble around Moore to play Alice’s family including Alec Baldwin, Kate Bosworth, Kristen Stewart and Hunter Parrish. Stewart, as Alice’s youngest daughter, is the family member who seems to be affected by her mother’s deterioration the most (and earns the most screen time), but all of the actors clearly know they are there to support Moore. This is Alice’s story and no one else’s.

Below the line, cinematographer Denis Lenoir avoids the Hollywood sheen instead composing a delicate and natural look. Ilan Eshkeri (“The Young Victoria”) deserves a special mention for his beautiful score that also avoids unnecessarily pulling the audience’s heartstrings.

- Hitfix, Gregory Ellwood: Stewart is superb as Lydia, the daughter of Alice Howland (Julianne Moore), a woman suffering from the onset of early Alzheimer's disease. It's one of three impressive indie turns for the actress this yea,r including "Camp X-Ray" and "Clouds of Sils Maria."


•• Variety, Peter Debruge: When the movies deal with Alzheimer’s, they nearly always approach it from the vantage of the family members who are painfully forgotten as loved ones lose their memories. “Still Alice” shows the process from the victim’s p.o.v., and suddenly the disease isn’t just something sad that happens to other people, but a condition we can relate to firsthand. Julianne Moore guides us through the tragic arc of how it must feel to disappear before one’s own eyes, accomplishing one of her most powerful performances by underplaying the scenario — a low-key approach that should serve this dignified indie well in limited release.

Based on the novel by neuroscientist Lisa Genova, “Still Alice” gives new meaning to the phrase, “It happens to the best of us.” [..] For the otherwise healthy Alice, there’s no good reason why Alzheimer’s should strike now, nearly 15 years before it traditionally occurs, although, as her doctor points out, the condition can actually be harder to diagnose in intelligent people, since they’re capable of devising elaborate work-arounds that mask the problem. Genova’s book hit especially close to home for husband-and-husband helmers Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland (“Quinceanera”), since Glatzer suffers from ALS — another degenerative condition that systematically attacks one’s sense of self.

At first, it’s just a word that goes missing in the middle of one of Alice’s linguistics lectures. But the situation gets scarier when she loses track of where she is during her daily jog. Since Alice’s disease involves short-term memory loss, a number of the tests she faces are ones the audience can take alongside, with the inevitable result that we start to reflect on the blind spots in our memory. Forgetting things isn’t unusual even among perfectly healthy adults, making it easy to identify with Moore, who plays her initial concerns quite casually.

It’s not until Alice learns that the disease is hereditary that the severity of her situation sets in: As if it weren’t bad enough that she will eventually cease to recognize her own children, Alice may also be responsible for passing the condition along to them. This is a tragedy, pure and simple, and yet the directing duo refuses to milk the family’s situation for easy tears. Instead, the idea is to put us inside Alice’s head. We experience disorientation as she would, suggested by a shallow depth of field where things shown out of focus appear to be just beyond her comprehension.

Alice’s diagnosis calls for a form of grieving, during which she tries coming to terms with the fact that life as it had previously existed is now over. She tells the department chair at Columbia U., where she taught, about her Alzheimer’s and is promptly dismissed from her position. She gets lost in her own home and is easily overwhelmed whenever she steps out of it. Though her husband John (Alec Balwin) aims to be supportive, he refuses to let her condition derail his own professional life. Alice begs him to take a year off work so they can be together before she’s too far gone to experience her own life, making visits to retirement homes and making contingency plans (a bottle of sleeping pills stashed at the back of a dresser drawer) for the day when she can no longer answer a series of personal questions about her life.

The directorial couple must have gone through something very similar when Glatzer’s ALS kicked in, forcing him to accept that his body had become his greatest enemy. The pair bring that personal connection to the writing process, emphasizing Alice’s emotions over those of her various family members — although Stewart, whose character steps in as caregiver at one point, gets several intimate, unshowy scenes with Moore. The helmers have made a conscious decision to keep things quiet, commissioning a score from British composer that doesn’t tell you how to feel, but rather how she feels: lost, emotional and anxious most of the time.

Clearly, Glatzer has not yet given up, and neither does Alice, despite her relatively rapid degeneration. It’s a devastating thing to watch the light of recognition dwindle in her eyes, to see the assertive, confident lecturer that she had so recently been reduced to the nervous, scared woman we see delivering one last speech at an Alzheimer’s society confab. After the stiff lifelessness of “The Last of Robin Hood,” the helmers have made a near-total recovery, shooting things in such a way that activity is constantly spilling beyond the edges of the frame, giving the impression that characters’ lives continue when they’re not on camera, even as Alice’s seems to be closing in around her. Just as her kids look for ever-fainter signs of their mother behind those eyes, we lean in to watch Moore the actress turn invisible within her own skin.


•• The Hollywood Reporter, Deborah Young: With some five million Americans (and 36 million worldwide) living with Alzheimer’s disease, the warm, compassionate but bitingly honest Still Alice will touch home for many people. The toll the disease takes on the life of a brilliant linguistics professor is superbly detailed by Julianne Moore in a career-high performance, driving straight to the terror of the disease and its power to wipe out personal certainties and identity. Written and directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, the screenplay is faithful to Lisa Genova’s best-selling novel which has a fan base of its own.

Rather than focus on the destructive effect of the disease on relationships, the drama dives deep into how one woman experiences her own deteriorating condition, placing all the emphasis on Moore’s face and reactions, her vulnerability seesawing with her strength. This insider’s account would be a tall order for any actor to fill without resorting to sentimentality or falling into the obvious, but she never loses control of the film for a second, with able support from Kristen Stewart, Alec Baldwin, Kate Bosworth and Hunter Parrish as family members. The involvement of the Alzheimer’s Association and executive producing names like Christine Vachon, Maria Shriver and Trudie Styler will offer an additional leg up, although word of mouth should provide the strongest incentive for audiences leery of the topic.

Despite a two-hour running time, the drama is swift-moving, perhaps because the viewer dreads the disease's progression and wishes time would stop for poor Alice. But it doesn't stop, and step by step she descends the cognitive ladder, not suffering so much as struggling to stay connected. In one standout scene, she stumbles onto suicide instructions she has left for herself on her computer. Though this is one of the film's most intense scenes, the directors are able to slip in a moment's humor to lighten things up.

Not all is doom and gloom here. Another key scene has Alice invited to address an Alzheimer's conference. Her anxious preparations end in a triumphant monologue about her condition that is truly touching.

Westmoreland and Glatzer have created drama around the porn industry (The Fluffer), the Mexican community in Los Angeles (Quinceanera) and Errol Flynn’s last fling with a teenage girl (The Last of Robin Hood.) Still Alice has a concentration and urgency in the telling that the other films lack. Although not known for daring cinematic fireworks or experimentation, the directors tackle a subject where a restrained, understated approach is the best insurance against sloppy sentimentality. It pays off handsomely in the film’s closing moments, a poignant, poetic confrontation between the generations that draws the best from Moore and reveals unexpected depth in Stewart. The film's extremely personal feeling is surely related to the fact that Glatzer directed it while undergoing a health crisis of his own — after being diagnosed with ALS, he had to co-direct the movie on an iPad using a text-to-speech app.

Tech work remains humbly in the background, all in the service of keeping the spotlight focused on Moore and mimicking her feelings with an out-of-focus camera, costumes she no longer chooses herself and so on.


•• Screendaily, Tim Grierson: Preferring a spare, understated style, Glatzer and Westmoreland mostly let the inherent sadness of the situation speak for itself. (Occasionally, though, Ilan Eshkeri’s score can become a little self-consciously frenetic, a clumsy attempt to echo Alice’s panic at her worsening memory loss.) But despite the rare tonal lapses, the film does a remarkable job of homing in on the story’s core terror: Alice is still physically well and could live a long life, but her essence — her mind, her memories and her spark — will soon disappear forever.

In the wrong hands, this is the stuff of disease-of-the-week sentimentality, but Still Alice stays away from that terrain by focusing less on the illness than on the emotional effects it has on all involved. Of course, the movie is most interested in Alice’s reactions to her diagnosis, but no one in her immediate circle is immune to these changes. Baldwin is particularly good as an ambitious medical researcher who is losing not just his wife but also a woman who was as driven as he was. John shows plenty of compassion for Alice, but Baldwin also reveals the cracks in the husband’s patience, powerless to bring back the woman he once knew, even though she’s right there.

Still Alice is such a rich, well-observed piece that it even finds time to flesh out Alice’s daughters. In the beginning, Anna is the favoured, successful child while Lydia is the disappointment floundering in a go-nowhere acting career out in Los Angeles. But once Alice’s condition is spotted, the two daughters respond in different ways and for very specific, understandable reasons. With nuance, Bosworth and Stewart both play women who seem to have been profoundly shaped by their impressive mother, and we feel the characters’ confusion at having her influence suddenly ripped away from them. (Stewart especially shines, initially playing a prototypical starving-artist type who surprises her family by her response to Alice’s diagnosis.)

To be sure, some will find Still Alice too depressing, too mawkish or too insular to embrace. (Because the Howlands are a well-to-do family, it’s inevitable that a criticism levelled against the film will be that it reeks of upper-class privilege.) But such complaints seem petty in the face of such a quiet, absorbing film. Tearjerkers get a bad rap because of how shamelessly manipulative they are, but Still Alice earns its tears by exploring emotional terrain with restraint and insight. This is a movie about a woman with Alzheimer’s, but it’s really about a family reassessing its bonds. And although none of the characters mentions death, this is one of the most poignant movies about mortality in quite a while: The Howlands are grieving for a person who isn’t actually going anywhere, except in all the ways that really count.


•• The Guardian, Catherine Shoard: The final furlong of the Toronto film festival and, just as the delegates head home after 10 days through the emotional wringer, Julianne Moore bids them goodbye with a Glasgow kiss. To call Still Alice a weepy would be to underestimate the upset it elicits. It's a sucker-punch that smacks sufficiently hard you have trouble breathing. There were so many sniffles at my screening I suspect they're still mopping the floor.

Glatzer and Washmoreland have teased one thread from the book further, brought it a touch more up to date (it's set a decade back).

It's not perfect – or, rather, it is a little too perfect. That Alice's profession concerns cognitive function over-eggs the pudding, adds to the unhappy sense that the tragedy of Alzheimer's is heightened when it hits an intellectual. Making the disease genetic as well as so early – and especially as Bosworth announces her intention to have a baby – also feels unnecessary. All you need is Moore; you don't need seven layers of irony to perk things up.

But it's hard to deny the flooring impact of that central performance; a word too for Kristen Stewart, initially bratty, but developing into something much subtler. Alice quotes Elizabeth Bishop's line: "The art of losing isn't hard to master". This is an effortlessly excellent film, about a horribly hard subject.


•• Filmoria, Hillary Butler: Rating 4.9/5
Moore gets good acting support from her cast mates here. Baldwin in particular is a good match for Moore, in a subtle yet emotional performance right down to his eventual breakdown. Stewart is better than she has been in anything of recent memory (though is getting good reviews for her work in other TIFF entry Clouds of Sils Maria). She shows a depth and emotion that previously seemed unattainable in her previous works. Even though many of her scenes take place on a computer screen as her and her mother Skype, her feeling is palpable.

While Still Alice runs at two hours, it never feels overdone. The pacing of the film is purposefully quick – cataloguing her decline in such a way that you almost want the film to be longer, slower, if only to make Alice have greater control of her faculties for as long as possible. The directors have masterfully created the world of Alice as a place where the audience can easily empathize and understand each heartbreaking loss along with the titular character.

But don’t feel that Still Alice is always a downer. There are moments of joy, moments of love between Alice and her family members that are the definition of happiness. Her journey is inspiring, and watching her deal with her struggles will make you immediately thankful for all you take for granted, your day to day, your ever precious memories.


•• The Film Experience, Nathaniel Rogers: Rating B+
"Still Alice," or Adjust Your Best Actress Charts

When we first meet Dr Alice Howland in this fine film adapted from the bestseller by Lisa Genova, she is celebrating her 50th birthday. She's happily married to Dr. John Howland (Alec Baldwin) with three grown children whom she adores though she isn't exactly a perfect mother or wife, at least as defined by your typical movie woman, in which case she'd be inordinately obsessed with her husband and children's particulars. In fact, she almost entirely defines herself by her own career and skills (imagine that!) as a respected linguistics professor. She values articulate communication and higher education and maybe she isn't super imaginative about other forms of expression. In fact, she's downright dismissive about her youngest daughter Lydia's (Kristen Stewart) interest in acting. She gives her a continual hard time about her education and career and is frustratingly absent from all of Lydia's minor triumphs.

Kristen Stewart is making good choices, upping her game by way of great costars.

Still Alice is confidently told and acted and though Julianne Moore is the main attraction - as well she should be: one line reading of "I have Alzheimers" is crazy brilliant in a throwaway funny way -- the ensemble gets more attention than you might think. That's true particularly of Lydia with whom Alice has the most difficult but actually closest relationship. Alice's attempts to connect with her daughter through a play (Angels in America as it turns out) which is clearly way beyond her mental capacity at that stage in her decline is sweetly tragic. Glatzer and Westmoreland watch all of this with careful attention but always in a low-key slice of life way. That subdued observation might limit Still Alice's operatic and tear-jerking potential as a story about tragic identity loss but it heightens its sensitivity as a compassionate film guide to readjusting expectations and reaching for tiny triumphs in the face of an inexplicably cruel and degenerative illness.

Alice is rapidly losing Alice and one day she'll be gone completely, a stranger in the mirror. But with this touching feature, Julianne Moore beautifully reclaims Julianne Moore. An Oscar run can't be far behind.

Oscar Chances: a Best Actress nomination should lock up the moment this reaches movie theaters and thus becomes eligible. It's the type of low key low budget indie that is most likely to be reduced in the awards imagination to simply a baity hook for its Oscar-free star to finally catch one. But if it goes over well in limited release (and it might) we could theoretically see some excitement around Alec Baldwin or Kristen Stewart in support or the Adapted Screenplay.


•• Sound of Sight, Justine Smith: ‘Still Alice’ values performances above all else Toronto International Film Festival 2014

Based on a popular novel by Lisa Genova, Still Alice is a weepy portrait of a linguistic professor, Dr. Alice Howland, battling early onset alzheimers shortly after turning 50 years old. Boasting a cast that includes Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth and the always electric Julianne Moore, above all else this is a film that leans on strong performances. This is not a film about script, ideas or even direction, it is about the intimacy of faces and the passion of performers.

This is, above all else, a film that thrives on acting. Julianne Moore is without a doubt one of the most adventurous and compelling actresses of contemporary film. For better or for worse, Still Alice explores the deterioration of Alzheimer’s on a relatively young person and not much else. Moore excels in the role, and balances between stoicism and humour, before succumbing increasingly to confusion and loss. Moore’s best screen partner in the film is without a doubt Kristen Stewart, who gives one of the strongest performances of her career. While she is in the model of a rebellious teen, Stewart manages through tone and gaze to suggest a world of conflict and contradiction in even the most simple lines. This all works towards a powerful, if not overtly poetic, final scene between the two actors. Yet, in spite of this standing out as the film’s biggest strength it can hardly compare to the intimacy that Sarah Polley manages to achieve with Away from Her (2006), which also tackles early onset Alzheimer’s. While Polley similarly creates a film that values performance above nearly all else, narrowing down the relationship to two people and foisting far more difficult choices onto the characters contributes to a far richer film.


•• Boise Weekly, George Prentice: In a conversation with Dr. Troy Rohn three summers ago, the Boise State researcher said that at the time, Idaho had between 25,000 and 32,000 people in Idaho diagnosed with Alzheimer's (enough to fill Boise State's Albertsons Stadium). He said that number would triple by 2050. When I asked if we had an epidemic, he took a breath and said, "It's a good word to use."

That haunting conversation was at the front of my mind as I watched Still Alice, starring Julianne Moore in the best performance of her career and co-starring co-stars Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart and Kate Bosworth.

It's hard to believe Moore hasn't already won an Oscar, given her work in The Hours, The End of the Affair, Far From Heaven, The Kids Are All Right and Magnolia—Still Alice might be the one that earns her the prize.

I admit to being skeptical when I approached Still Alice. I was expecting an earnest, sentimental offering, but this movie is simply wonderful. It's based on the 2005 bestselling debut novel by Dr. Lisa Genova, and the screenplay was crafted with tremendous care by Wash Westmoreland, who also directed, and Richard Glatzer who suffers from ALS but completed the film even though his hands and arms were barely functional.

Don't be afraid of this film because of its subject matter. Embrace it and be swept away by one of the most beautiful performances ever captured on film.


•• The Telegraph, Tim Robey: Rating 5/5
Magisterial. The most intrepid scene in the gorgeous, piercing Still Alice is between Julianne Moore and herself.

The bristling impatience of Alec Baldwin’s persona is ideally harnessed as John, Alice’s husband, whose scoffing denial of her initial diagnosis elicits lightning rage from his wife – she’s used to him not listening. Kate Bosworth, as their tightly-wound eldest daughter, and Kristen Stewart, as her sister Lydia, do lovely, complementary work.

Beyond memory loss, it’s a film whose subject is words – their meaning and function, everything they helplessly give away about the brain and its rebellions. The first one Alice forgets, at a lecture podium, is “lexicon”. She goes from a 66-point Words With Friends score, with a well-placed HADJ, to a shadow of the player she used to be, laying down TONE for a mere 6.

When Stewart's Lydia, months later, recites passages from Angels in America to her mother, they have become mere sounds, but she’s still able to recognise them as sounds conveying something to do with love.

Directing here, and doing their best work ever, is the married team of Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, for whom this project is especially personal: Glatzer suffers from a related neurodegenerative ailment, ALS, and was unable to come to this Toronto premiere.

Their film will mean a lot to a lot of people – not just anyone whose life Alzheimer’s has affected, but anyone whom it could affect, ever. Working with the magisterial French cameraman Denis Lenoir (Carlos), they get every shot to take its still, measured toll.


•• Indiewire; Kevin Jagernauth: It's not a surprise to learn that Genova herself is a neuroscientist, as "Still Alice" often feels quite clinical. It's a bit of a lazy contrivance that both John and Alice are doctors (she teaches linguistics, changed from psychology in the book), and this leads to more than a couple of discussions in the film about symptoms, the details of early onset Alzheimer's, the diagnosis and more that often feels unnatural or designed as a knowledge dump. And there is a slight remove from the challenges Alice faces, as while the disease is no less devastating because of it, her very healthy financial situation is a far cry from many who suffer from the disease. With the ability to pay for medication, get the best care possible, live in her own home, and have children around her who are also well off (well, except for vagabond Lydia) and can help as well, this story is not a reality for the average person. That strain of caring for someone when finances and resources are hard to come by is an additional difficulty with its own set of problems, and the film's desire to be relatable is undercut by the distance the characters are from how most people live.

But it's difficult to be hard on a movie that means so well and is executed with honorable, if completely bland, precision. Moore gets the showcase part, and does her usually strong work with it, but the rest of the supporting cast isn't given much to work with. There is a missed opportunity in exploring John's feelings more, seeing the love of his life become unrecognizable to him and herself, their entire lives together erased from the mind of his wife. Meanwhile, the daughters and son come in when necessary, though Lydia does become more involved as Alzheimer's progresses in her mother. But it's not quite enough, as decent as Stewart is in the part.

Competently directed, and delivered with the expected emotional beats, "Still Alice" achieves its modest goals, but one wishes it had a grander vision. Certainly, Alzheimer's is devastating, but it's also messy, complex, and confusing for everyone touched by it, and it's that kind of grit this film needs. She may still be Alice, but the life she knew, and that her family knew, is ruptured irrevocably. And that sensation never quite gets transmitted in the film. At one point, Alice delivers a speech about living with the disease, reading it from a printout, and highlighting each line so she doesn't get confused or lost along the way. In the midst of her talk, she accidentally drops the pages from the podium and they scatter on the floor, leading to a moment when it looks like her careful planning may not have worked out. But she gathers them back up, gets composed, and continues where she left off. The better movie would've left those pages on the floor and seen what happens next.


•• London Evening Standard, David Sexton: Rating 4/5
Still Alice is deeply moving. Julianne Moore plays Alice Howland, a linguistics professor at Columbia, happily married to another academic (Alec Baldwin), fit and busy, with three grown-up kids doing well. Then, aged 50, she is diagnosed with familial early onset Alzheimer’s, progressing with terrifying rapidity. “It feels like my brain is f**king dying and everything I’ve worked for my entire life is going”, she says.

Julianne Moore is harrowingly good. As Alice she prepares herself with determination but it strips her away from herself. What remains is the affection of her family, particularly that of her youngest daughter (Kristen Stewart), with whom she has had a bumpy relationship. Still Alice sounds like the last movie you would want to see for “enjoyment”. But it touches deep and it affirms life.


•• Buzzfeed, Emily Orley: This Harrowing Movie About Early Onset Alzheimer’s Is Unlike Anything You’ve Seen Before.

Still Alice, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, brings the audience on the painful journey of a woman living with a disease for which there is no cure. “I wish I had cancer,” Alice Howland (Julianne Moore) tells her husband John (Alec Baldwin) in the new movie Still Alice, which recently premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. The Columbia University linguistic professor just found out she has early onset Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia that has no cure. The sad irony that she’s spent her career studying and teaching words only to lose nearly all of them is not lost on the audience or on Alice. When someone has cancer, Alice explains, people wear ribbons. But no one does the same when you can’t find the words to make small talk, or any talk at all.

Still Alice, directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, who also wrote the screenplay from Lisa Genova’s novel, documents just that — the progression of an early onset Alzheimer’s diagnosis from discovery to nearly complete incoherence. The film opens with Alice’s 50th birthday party where her husband John, son Tom (Hunter Parrish), and older daughter Anna (Kate Bosworth) are having dinner to celebrate. At one point, Anna complains to her husband Charlie (Shane McRae) that her younger sister Lydia (Kristen Stewart) is selfish for not having flown to the East Coast from her home in Los Angeles to join them. As Anna talks about her strained relationship with her sister, Alice interjects, as if to correct her: “My sister and I were very close.” Anna and Charlie clarify that they were speaking about Anna and Lydia’s relationship, not Alice’s with her late sister. And just like that, the moment is over.

There are a few similar instances in the beginning of the film, subtle hints dropped here and there that are so small, the audience might miss them. But that’s the point. Alzheimer’s, at first, affects moments so irrelevant to everyday life that no one would stop to question the misunderstanding. But then, as if overnight, Alice’s symptoms become more apparent. And once her diagnosis is confirmed, her mental deterioration is accelerated.

Still Alice is a difficult film to watch. Seeing Alice’s loving husband and three children care for her is incredibly distressing, and the moments in which she doesn’t recognize her own daughter is downright heartbreaking. But what is most painful are the scenes in which the viewer feels the effects of the disease from Alice’s perspective. As her condition worsens, this story is told in a way in which the audience essentially experiences Alice’s surroundings as much (or as little) as she does, only gaining a few additional pieces of information beyond what Alice sees, knows, and understands.

And because of the way the story is told, viewers experience the disorientation and isolation that come with Alzheimer’s. There is no sense of how much time has passed for Alice or the viewer. In one scene, she comments on how something happened the night before and John is heard whispering that the event actually occurred a month prior. When Alice loses focus on the world around her, so does the frame in which moviegoers see it. While films have tackled Alzheimer’s before, it’s unique and poignantly harrowing to experience the effects of the disease through the victim’s eyes as Still Alice manages to achieve.


•• The Wire, Joe Reid: It would be a disservice to boil things down to "Julianne Moore might win an Oscar because she's playing Alzheimer's," but as a simple description of the draw of Still Alice, it kind of applies. It's a movie that does a great many small things exactly right, including wonderful supporting performances by Kristen Stewart and Alec Baldwin, but the story here is Julianne Moore's performance as a Columbia professor falling down the rabbit hole of a disintegrating mind.


•• CTV News: This simple, understated tale about a woman diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's is elevated by Julianne Moore's heartbreaking performance in the central role. Directors Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer avoid sentimental theatrics and instead tell the story largely from Alice's perspective, allowing the audience to identify with her fully as she loses her memories, her connection to loved ones and her sense of self. Kristen Stewart gives a strong supporting turn as Alice's daughter, who becomes the only family member able to truly empathize with her disappearing mother.


•• Refined Geekery, Thomas Agar: Still Alice is an absolutely heart-wrenching tale of a film. Based on the 2009 novel by Lisa Genova, Still Alice follow’s Julianne Moore as Alice Howland, a Columbia University professor of linguistics who is diagnosed not long after her 50th birthday with a case of early onset Alzheimer’s disease. What follows is about an hour and a half of coping with the slow degradation of one’s mind in the company of their loving family (a stellar cast that includes Alec Baldwin as her husband, and Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, and Hunter Parrish as their three children).


•• ICS: What could be worse than losing the memories of one’s experiences? If a person is shaped by their experiences, are they still the same person once they lose those memories? A film that finds the perfect balance of exploring the perspectives of people both living through Alzheimer’s, as well as living with someone affected by Alzheimer’s, Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland’s intimate and hopeful Still Alice tackles these questions with real wisdom and clarity, and dares to challenge one’s opinion of what Alzheimer’s really portends.

Alice accepts this news with dignity and proactivity, and shows how resourceful and high functioning she can still be. After being dismissed from her station at Columbia, she finds new ways to challenge herself, creating a memory quiz for herself on her iPhone to complete every morning. And, after some time, she gives a lecture about living with Alzheimer’s (a truly moving speech that pulls the audience into the head of someone who has to live with the disease), where she highlights the words she has spoken, so as to not lose her place as she reads aloud. While Alice has approached her current situation with bravery and gusto, her husband John (Alec Baldwin) nominally accepts the gravity of what this means, but struggles with denial as he thinks she is slipping away from him. When Alice goes for a run and leaves her phone behind, she is unable to receive reminders from John, and misses dinner plans with friends. He is reluctant to accept that things are going to change, and still believes that everything can be perfectly managed, berating her for leaving her phone behind. This conviction persists, and as he is still an ambitious, career-driven man, he flirts with the possibility of taking Alice away from their home and moving out of state to pursue a promotion. Alice continually pleads with him to take a sabbatical year, certain that the amount of time when she will be coherent enough to really enjoy their life together is short. But the call of this promotion is too seductive for John to resist, and their daughter Lydia moves back home to become Alice’s primary caregiver.

Kristen Stewart, also magnificent in Olivier Assayas’s Clouds of Sils Maria this year, provides excellent support to Moore’s Alice, and in a film that did not already have a powerhouse like Moore, she would be best in show. As Alice’s youngest daughter Lydia, Kristen Stewart plays an aspiring actress who moves away from her family in New York City to pursue an acting career in Los Angeles. One gets the impression that Lydia has not been as close to Alice as her siblings (and, as her siblings have pursued careers in law and medicine, Lydia makes the least sense to Alice), but she is the child who best understands how to accommodate and support Alice. In one dinner scene, Alice is intent on entering the date of one of Lydia’s performances in a play into her phone. Her elder daughter Anna (Kate Bosworth) thinks this is futile, and that Alice shouldn’t need to feel pressured to have to remember one more thing that they can already worry about for her, but Lydia argues that there is no harm in letting her do something to make her feel better in that moment. In defending her, Lydia shows herself as the only family member who is sensitive to Alice’s need to still be as independent and high functioning as possible. Lydia seems to be fully aware that Alice is not and does not need to be treated like a victim, and is not keen on feeling the need to start treating Alice any differently. Another key scene takes place after Alice’s husband John suggests that Alice should read one of Lydia’s favourite plays, so that the next time they’re together, they’ll have something in common to talk about. As she’s up in Lydia’s room, along with a copy of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America Alice finds one of Lydia’s old journals. Once she discusses the play with Lydia, Alice accidentally drops a piece of information that Lydia never told her, alerting Lydia to the fact that Alice read her journal. She feels invaded, and is critical of Alice’s choice to do that. Just because Alice has Alzheimer’s does not mean she is suddenly a saint, and Lydia is not inclined to start treating her like one. But in one really moving scene that is among the best parts of Julianne Moore and Kristen Stewart’s performances, Alice confronts Lydia, telling her that she remembers Lydia was angry with her, and though she cannot remember why, she wants Lydia’s forgiveness. Theirs is a relationship that highlights the importance of forgiveness, reconciliation of resentment, and the possibility of two apparently different people finding common ground, and the film is as affecting as it is because of such exploration.

Still Alice is proof of the fact that one’s identity is so innate that not even one’s loss of memory is enough to take that away. It shows there is still room for families to have meaningful experiences with their affected loves; a compelling promise to the families of and anyone living with Alzheimer’s that it’s not a life sentence of a condition: Still Alice is a real beacon of hope.


•• Los Angeles Times, Steven Zeitchik: Pundits like to compare the Toronto International Film Festival‎ and the awards season it kicks off to a modern presidential primary. We know the big names coming in -- they have, after all, in a sense declared their candidacies months before -- so the festival serves mainly to separate contenders from pretenders in this pre-selected field.

Every once in a while, though, a candidate lands from out of nowhere, jolting the race and seizing momentum like Bill Clinton at a 1992 straw poll. That pretty much the dynamic of Julianne Moore and “Still Alice,” the Alzheimer’s drama that premiered at Toronto last week.

Financed independently, the film didn’t even have distribution coming into the festival. That changed shortly after the screening, when Sony Pictures Classics snapped up rights with an eye toward dropping the film, and Moore, right into the 2014 campaign. (Incidentally, the film also features a strong supporting turn for Kristen Stewart, playing Moore's daugther; don't be surprised if she garners some attention too.)


•• The Film Stage, Sky Hirschkron: Rating B+
While Julianne Moore and Kristen Stewart have received acclaim for their performances in Maps to the Stars and Clouds of Sils Maria, respectively, this year, I don’t hesitate to say that both actresses best their prior work here.

Stewart, as Alice’s daughter Lydia, is just as impressive. Lydia is a repertory actress; Alice, an academic and linguistics expert, is disapproving. But the battles of will that ensue are deliciously nuanced and authentic: Lydia is all too prone to overasserting herself, then biting her words; and Alice, unwilling to sacrifice a sense of clarity, still kowtows to her daughter’s aggression. Stewart, so often mocked as a purveyor of one-note glumness, is quite deft here at offhand line readings and quick changes in register. Her Lydia is loving, but a little callous—one doesn’t cancel out the other. When she repeatedly tells Alice, “You will, mom,” over the course of a Skype call, these are not reassurances she struggles to vocalize—they are second-nature displays of tact. When emotion breaks through the tact, it is roughly comparable to watching Alice’s decline: Lydia operates with such control-freak precision that even a small gesture of humility is deeply moving.


•• Ion Cinema, Nicholas Bell: Rating 3/5
As her supportive but distant husband, Alec Baldwin chooses to focus on life after Alice, along with their eldest daughter played by Kate Bosworth. The film instead chooses to explore Alice’s more complicated relationship with youngest daughter Lydia, in an understated performance from Kristen Stewart. As visible as Moore’s been in 2014, it’s been a surprising year for Stewart, popping up in a variety of excellent films in which she’s cast in roles clearly suited for her, including Camp X-Ray and Olivier Assayas’ excellent Clouds of Sils Maria. Those quick to judge may need to re-assess their opinion of the young star, as Still Alice caps a trio of provoking films that should all end up on year-end best lists.


•• Serving Cinema, Steven Armour: Rating 8,5/10
Alec Baldwin and Kristen Stewart both have their fair share of touching scenes with Moore, as Alice’s husband and youngest daughter respectively. Growing increasingly dependent on her equally successful and busy husband, childlike in her vulnerability as she nestles into him when uncomfortable in new environments, Alice’s deterioration is expertly and poignantly portrayed by Moore. Similarly, her sporadic but intimate conversations with Stewart provide diverse insight into how family members respond and deal with the estranging affliction of Alzheimer’s. Alice’s youngest daughter is not afraid to ask frank questions and engage with her mother, the pair growing closer in spite of Alice losing more of herself each day, and it is their changing relationship that becomes the emotional core of the film.

Recently acquired for distribution by the prestigious and awards-campaign savvy Sony Pictures Classics, Still Alice is on track to receive the recognition and exposure such an important film deserves – not least of all for the extraordinarily nuanced work of its leading lady.


•• Cinematographer, Pat Mullen: Rating 4/5
[..] The heart of the film, though, is Alice’s relationship with her daughter Lydia. Lydia comes vividly to life thanks to Kristen Stewart, who, like Moore, is easily a champ of TIFF 2014 thanks to her equally strong performance in Olivier Assayas’s Clouds of Sils Maria. Stewart grows Lydia from a self-involved flighty artist into a compassionate maternal figure, eager and willing to return the love her mother gave her as a child. Stewart arguably gives her most emotional and vulnerable performance to date. Her final monologue, in which she recites to Alice Harper’s final monologue from Tony Kushner’s Angles in America, is one of the most heartrending scenes you’ll see this year. Stills Alice responds with Moore’s finest scene of the film, which totally submerses Alice in her disease but brings to the surface the one true element that cannot be forgotten in a parent-child relationship: love.


•• We Live Film, MovieManMenzel: Rating 9,5/10
I was lucky enough to attend the World Premiere of Still Alice at the Toronto International Film Festival back in September and prior to the premiere, I had no idea what to expect. I went to see the film simply because I am a big fan of Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, and Kristen Stewart. With that being said, I was incredibly shocked by Still Alice and never thought that something with no pre-festival buzz would see Julianne Moore receiving a standing ovation not just once, but twice within the span of 15 minutes.

Truth be told, everything about Still Alice works. While it is a very simple and quiet film, it packs an incredible punch while handling the subject matter with an incredible amount of respect. It is well acted, well directed, well written, and will be a film that will stick with you for weeks, if not months after seeing it. This is hands down the best film that I have ever seen revolving around alzheimer’s. Its raw and realistic while being completely engrossing. This entire film makes you feel as though you are watching someone from your own family go through this and as it goes on you will feel exactly what the characters are feeling on-screen. In other words, Still Alice is the scariest film you will see all year.

Julianne Moore is the glue that holds everything together. This is without a doubt the best performance of her career and that is saying a lot given the fact that she has starred in over 55 feature length films to date. Over the span of 22 years, Moore has proven that she can take on almost any role in any genre but by playing Alice Howland, she will finally take home the Oscar. Alice is a brilliant woman that has spent her entire life studying linguistics, while being a mother to three children and a supportive wife to her husband John. All this combined is what makes her story all the more powerful and heartbreaking.

During the film’s perfect 99 minute runtime, we as audience members see this brilliant mind deteriorate right in front of our very eyes. Moore’s performance is raw and full of emotion. Honestly, it feels like Moore spent years prepping for this role and she brings to life a character that we truly believe is suffering from alzheimer’s. She nails all the struggles from early on when she is first experience the memory loss to later when she completely loses her mind. Moore’s mannerisms are dead on and she makes us feel for her character all the way through. Moore shines when she is surrounded by her talented cast members, however, it is when she is alone where she shines the brightest. There is a one scene in particular where Alice records a video on her Macbook that is incredibly powerful. This one scene will stick with most long after they leave the theater.

While this is without a doubt Moore’s baby, I must make mention of how blown away I was by Kristen Stewart in this film. Stewart plays Alice’s youngest daughter Lydia and I thought the time that these two shared together on-screen were absolutely fantastic. The scenes these two shared on-screen were the strongest moments of the film outside of the scenes where Moore is struggling with the disease on her own. There are several great moments with these two including a scene earlier in the film where the two meet for lunch to discuss Lydia’s life as she is struggling to get a job in Los Angeles. This is a great mother and daughter scene showing a concerning mother yet supportive mother trying to believe in her daughter’s dream. Later in the film, the two share a powerful scene involving Skype that ultimately leads to even more emotional scene later in the film.

A lot of critics and general filmgoers have written Kristen Stewart off as a hack actress who will always be known as Bella Swan from those teenybopper Twilight films. I don’t know what it is about her but I always dug her as an actress. I loved her in Adventureland, Welcome to the Rileys, and The Runaways but this is without a doubt her best performance to date. I think many will see her in this film and realize that she can be incredible with the right material. Stewart is one of those actresses that will continue to make independent films and will prove over and over again that she is a force to be reckoned with.

As far as direction, Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland have crafted one remarkable film. There are so many shots throughout the film that make us feel for the struggle that Alice and her family are facing. There are a lot of quiet moments within this film but they work so well. Genova along with Glatzer and Westmoreland crafted something that showcased how much a disease can affect a life and those that are apart of it. Their film shows this by creating a realistic world with a realistic story and realistic characters. The story here never feels forced nor does it ever seem unrealistic. The story instead is tough and rather complex but is told from a very personal perspective. As someone who sees over 200 films per year, you can always tell when a film connects with those behind the camera and in front of it; this is definitely one of those films.

All in all, I never expected to walk out of Still Alice and say, “wow, that was one of the best films of the year, if not the best film of the year.” Still Alice is one emotional roller coaster of a film. Everything about this film is near perfection and it is the most honest and thought-provoking film ever made about alzheimer’s. It is something that will not only make you think but will make you think about your life and if you are living it to the fullest. I can’t wait to see this film get all the recognition that it deserves come award season and will be anxiously awaiting Moore to take to the stage as she wins the prize for Best Actress in a Motion Picture at this year’s Oscar ceremony.

Nick Iacobucci and MovieManMenzel's review video


TWEETS

RT @leaf_chick Standing ovation after the screening of #StillAlice at #TIFF14 ... #juliannemoore so moving.... Oscar worthy

RT @HitFixGregory And yes another classy addition to Kristen Stewarts resume. #StillAlice #TIFF

RT @RiverofLawrence Omggg #StillAlice was soooo good!!! It got a standing ovation!!! Wow! Wish it was longer!

RT @debsterbread Julianne Moore's portrayal of Alice in #StillAlice deserves and oscar nomination. Absolutely heartbreaking. #TIFF14

RT @sharonclott Audience member asks to shake #juliannemoore's hand and gets round of applause #StillAlice #premiere #TIFF14

RT @KillerFilms STILL ALICE gets standing ovation!! Julianne Moore gets her own 2nd standing ovation!

RT @sharonclott Another round of applause ends the #StillAlice Q&A

RT @AmmmieM @TIFF_NET Early-onset Alzheimer's Day continues. Still Alice was a beautiful, heartfelt, realistic portrayal on film.

RT @WeLiveFilm #StillAlice was spectacular. #juliannemoore #TIFF14

RT @richardjmunday Still Alice was fantastic, thought provoking and tragic, the performance by @_juliannemoore showcased the insidious nature of this disease.

RT @WeLiveFilm SA is a brutally honest look at alzheimer's. The direction was spectacular as was #juliannemoore #KristenStewart #alecbaldwin
Alec Baldwin and Kristen Stewart, both of them were terrific. I loved the relationship between Kristen Stewart and Moore.

RT @jenannrodrigues There are many great moments between Kristen and Julianne's characters, and heartbreaking ones too. #StillAlice

RT @RogueDior I liked Kristen's role. I loved the whole cast actually #stillalice #TIFF14
Julianne has a lot of strong scenes which really brought to light how Alzheimer's affects a person and their life.

RT @_marzipancakes Still Alice. Beautiful production and a captivating Julianne Moore. Captures the intensity of the loss of "you"

RT @larry411 On a personal note, was fun to see 1/2 the movie #StillAlice was shot in the teeny town of Lido Beach NY on the block where I lived. Spent many hours on that very beach seen in #StillAlice... & took care of my mom through her dementia, as Kristen Stewart's character did. I suspect many will see their own lives reflected in #StillAlice, as I did. One of #TIFF14's most important films & Oscar contender.

RT @trizhernandez #StillAlice Thank you for the tears #TIFF14 Great performance Julianne, Good to see you again Kristen

RT @Itsoktobeyouorg *Spoiler Alert* According to @imTulip :) this personal photo of Kristen that we have already seen in 'What Just Happened?' is also in 'Still Alice'. ♥

RT @JeniferDyck Get the tissues! #StillAlice #tiff

RT @baseball31 Kristen and Julianne's scenes were both funny and sweet

RT @weimermat Still Alice was fantastic and powerful. So powerful that I left the theatre with a strong desire to learn more about the disease.

RT @JazzBeeP Still Alice has to be the most touching film that I have seen so far this year at #tiff loved it.

RT @QueenMoonRee Still Alice was an amazing movie!! @_juliannemoore did a fantastic job in taking on the character of Alice!!

RT @SSanober #StillAlice #TIFF14 is an emotionally engaging incredible film about #alzheimers #juliannemoore at her best yet!!! What a beauty!

RT @emilyorley "Still Alice" is painful and powerful yet touching. Julianna Moore is excellent but, shockingly, Kristen Stewart was my favorite.
Moore carefully shows the quick & harrowing parts of Alzheimer's. Stewart demonstrates the most beautiful & patient love.

RT @misterpatches STILL ALICE is beautiful. Julianne Moore's Amour. Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart & Kate Bosworth are perfectly complimentary. Floored.

RT @AwardsDaily Two standout turns for Kristen Stewart in this year’s Oscar race - Still Alice and Clouds of Sils Maria. Which one to choose...

RT @bfg85 #StillAlice is heartbreaking -- @_juliannemoore is genuine, human, brilliant and Kristen Stewart does quite a nice job also

RT @mattcrandall Believe the hype on Julianne Moore in STILL ALICE - devastating performance. Oscar nom a certainty.

RT @federcast #StillAlice is such a gem. Deep movie with great casting choices. #juliannemoore is terrific once again

RT @jasonwhyte STILL ALICE a very beautiful story of a woman's realization of Alzheimer's. Julianne Moore and Kristen Stewart are outstanding.

RT @tiffgraffer Julianne Moore and all of #StillAlice were fantastic, tragic. Unforgettable.

RT @Jansfrance @_juliannemoore Just saw #StillAlice at #TIFF14 . You deserve an #Academyaward! What a fabulous, moving performance

RT @rikben Just saw #StillAlice @TIFF_NET - two thumbs up. Great adaptation of the Amazing book

RT @kandychen "Still Alice"is very touching! @Julianne Moore is wonderful! I was sitting besides the producer! He was crying!!!!!

RT @gioriii STILL ALICE is such an emotional/frightening film and Julianne Moore is sooooo great in it #watchit #stillalice #TIFF14

RT @sensationalkp Outstanding performances. Important subject matter. See & read Still Alice.

RT @MichaelFil Just saw screening of Still Alice at #TIFF14; still crying. @_juliannemoore, your performance broke my heart.

RT @to_the_lightbox Between Still Alice and The Clouds of Sils Maria, I love how much Kristen Stewart has proven me wrong. What a banner year for her!

RT @b_anyon My heart is very heavy after watching Still Alice. What a powerful film.

RT @kenmorefield STILL ALICE a little too awed by its own subject and seriousness, but Kristen Stewart sure is having a good festival...

RT @nick_duranleau STILL ALICE will make you sad. Great script and well photographed. Julianne Moore is better than ever.

RT @KamKamMelonn Julianne Moore is ace in Still Alice. And ofcourse, Kristen Stewart is ♥♥

RT @Filmaluation STILL ALICE ★★★★★ Julianne Moore-Alec Baldwin-Kristen Stewart. Excellent Alzheimer's drama. (Was strong enough without weepy music.)

RT @kimercado Also got extremely jealous of Julianne on more than one occasion because I want to Skype Kristen Stewart, too. #StillAlice

RT @jadabird Kristen Stewart's 'Angels In America' monologue in 'Still Alice' may be the best work she's ever done

RT @trim_obey Other than being gold for Julianne fans, this Sony Classics STILL ALICE pick-up gives Kristen Stewart her best ever chance of an Oscar nod.

RT @VHopeful Still Alice made me cry. Beautiful performances from Julianne Moore and Kristen Stewart as mother and daughter.

RT @cinemablogrpher STILL ALICE is so sad! Expect your parents to get FAULT IN OUR STARS sloppy. Moore and Stewart are terrific.