Julianne Moore plays professor with Alzheimer’s in ‘Still Alice’

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Julianne Moore plays professor with Alzheimer’s in ‘Still Alice’.

Playing an Alzheimer’s-afflicted college professor in this Friday’s “Still Alice,” she’s already won the Golden Globe for best actress in a drama and her fifth Oscar nomination. Adapted from Lisa Genova’s bestselling book, the tender and occasionally harrowing drama “Still Alice” tells the story of an accomplished Columbia University linguistics professor who discovers that she has early onset Alzheimer’s. “What was so compelling about the script was that it was the first time I had seen a disease like this depicted objectively.

Golden Globe-winner Julianne Moore says while she is over the moon with an Oscar nod for her performance in ‘Still Alice’, her kids are not interested in it. Moore, 54, calls “Alice” “an unusual project in that it’s the first movie I’d seen that talked about a condition like this presented completely subjectively, from her point of view. “Generally, we see these stories from the caretaker’s point of view or a different family member or whatever. Not only has she already won both a Golden Globe and a Critics’ Choice award for it; the best of her competition, Marion Cotillard, is unlikely to be rewarded by an Academy still so resistant to foreign films (Cotillard is nominated for her unerringly convincing performance as a woman desperate to hold on to her job in the Belgian film Two Days, One Night). She is competing against Felicity Jones (‘The Theory of Everything’) Rosamund Pike (‘Gone Girl’), Reese Witherspoon (‘Wild’) and Marian Cotillard (‘Two Days, One Night’) The 46-year-old actress said her children Caleb and Liv were more excited about her appearing in ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part One’. “They could take or leave the Oscars. ‘Mockingjay’ was a big deal!” Despite being considered a front-runner ahead of the prestigious ceremony, Moore is determined not to get swept up by the buzz either. “I try to take it one day at a time.

Will she limit herself to gushing her thanks to her directors, Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, her co-stars Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart and Kate Bosworth, her darling husband and children? Or will she take the time also to note that when Still Alice arrived at the Toronto International film festival last September, it did not even have a distributor? Whether it’s using a highlighter so as not to lose your place in the middle of a speech or self-administering a daily memory test on your iPhone, everything that Alice does in the movie is based on reality. “I felt like that was the only fair way to do it,” said Moore. I always say I could use the help because my husband is younger than I am” — director Bart Freundlich, 45 — “so I can live as long as he does.” “I was writing notes and heard this sound and said, ‘Are you crying?’ Afterwards he made me be quiet for about 45 minutes.

To remind the world that for all its success, Still Alice is a shameful anomaly as well as a triumph, simply by dint of the fact that at its heart is a middle-aged woman? She took great lengths to immerse herself into the world of Alzheimer’s through books and documentaries that she and Glatzer and Westmoreland would pass around to one another, but also by talking to clinicians, neurologists and, most importantly, actual patients. No, far more enraging to me was the realisation that only one in eight of the films nominated for best picture had produced a best actress nominee (Felicity Jones for her role as Jane Hawking in The Theory of Everything), a state of affairs that tells you pretty much all you need to know about the gender bias of most “big” films these days. Venture into your local multiplex and you’ll find almost nothing but the testosterone-heavy fare so beloved of the Academy: choose from American Sniper (about a US Navy Seal), Foxcatcher (thick-necked Olympic wrestlers) or Whiplash (in which a bullying music teacher acts like a drill sergeant throughout). But all the same, I couldn’t help but notice that the only time its female stars, Andrea Riseborough and Naomi Watts, appear on screen minus Michael Keaton, Ed Norton et al, they’re engaged in a (wholly gratuitous) lesbian clinch.

Best not get too excited, though: the film was made by Witherspoon’s own production company, Pacific Standard, an outfit she set up in 2012 when she realised, at the ripe old age of 36, that the big parts were no longer coming her way. A major part of the reason why all this makes me so furious surely comes from the knowledge that things really weren’t, as people like to sigh, ever thus. Back then, before Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, male actors were lucky to get even equal billing with the likes of Barbara Stanwyck; far more often, they were cast as her support. I adore All About Eve for everything it says about fame and ambition, and in particular for the attention it pays to the painful and divisive invisibility awarded to women as they age (“Funny business, a woman’s career,” says Margo Channing).

The 50s also brought us A Streetcar Named Desire (Vivien Leigh in Oscar-winning form as Blanche DuBois), The African Queen (Katharine Hepburn doing her full prim and spiky) and How to Marry a Millionaire (Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, Lauren Bacall). But still, Julianne Moore might like to think of Kidman and all the others – far too many to name by now – as she adjusts her Tom Ford dress come 22 February.

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