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Thursday, December 11, 2014

STILL ALICE


By D.E.Levine

In a brilliant performance, Julianne Moore explores the feelings and actions of a woman going through early onset Alzheimer disease.

Dr. Alice Howard (Julianne Moore) is a Columbia University professor who in 50+ years has achieved a distinguished career and successfully raised three grown children.

Initially, her small moments of forgetfulness don't raise any red flags.  Although forgetting a word during a linguistic lecture is disconcerting, Alice doesn't worry.  However, when she goes jogging and loses track of where she is, where she's going and how to get back home, she starts to become concerned.

While a consultation with her doctor informs Alice that intelligent people generally are harder to diagnose because they develop work-around techniques, when she's told that the condition is hereditary and that in addition to eventually losing her own identity and self she may also be responsible for passing it on to her children, Alice is concerned and plagued by guilt.

With increasing disorientation and a dulling of senses, Alice grieves while she attempts to come to terms with the fact that life as she knows it is ending.  Gradually descending into a "fuzzy" world where she can't grasp ideas and concepts, gets lost in her own home, doesn't remember things her family tell her and repeatedly asks the same questions, she is frightened but honest enough to confide in her department head at Columbia University.

Her immediate dismissal from her position is an all too try revelation of how employers treat employees who become ill and/or disabled.  Although it's supposed to be against the law, most employers dismiss employees as rapidly as they can.

Her husband John (Alec Baldwin) refuses her request to take a year off so they can be together before the disease progresses and she is completely lost and makes plans to keep his career on track even when it means leaving her behind.  She spends some of the valuable time that he denies her visiting retirement homes, making contingency plans, and recording video messages to herself that can direct her when she literally loses her self.

Still Alice isa tender look at a woman rapidly deteriorating and descending into a muddled mind.  Although Alice doesn't give up her rapid deterioration is horrifying to those in the audience who haven't seen the effects of degenrative diseases before.  To its credit the film is less about the impact of the disease on family members and caregivers than on the actural sufferer and we are given a unique insight into a woman going from a self-assured, assertive individual to a frightened woman who cannot remember things from one minute to the next.