Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
USA, 2014. Lutzus-Brown, Killer Films, BSM Studio, Backup Media, Big Indie Pictures, Shriver Films. Screenplay by Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland, based on the novel by Lisa Genova. Cinematography by Denis Lenoir. Produced by Music by Production Design by Costume Design by Film Editing by Academy Awards 2014. Golden Globe Awards 2014. Gotham Awards 2014. Independent Spirit Awards 2014. National Board of Review Awards 2014. Toronto International Film Festival 2014. Washington Film Critics Awards 2014.
A successful linguistics professor (Julianne Moore) has her life of non-stop lectures and conferences crumble to pieces when she learns from her doctor that her random forgetfulness and periodic confusion is actually early onset Alzheimer’s. She is told she will begin to deteriorate quickly, which means that her marriage to Alec Baldwin will face a great challenge, and which draws her children (Hunter Parrish, Kate Bosworth, Kristen Stewart) back home to give her whatever care they can. Moore, terrified of the future and determined not to be a burden, practices mental exercises and stays physically active in an effort to remain healthy for as long as possible, but as the inevitable creeps up on her we begin to see the horrors that accompany an inability to keep a grasp on the tangible present: the emotional toll it takes on her family is about as devastating as what it takes on her own self. This soapy melodrama has moments of true poignancy in examining the reality of Alzheimer’s, but as with many Hollywood movies about people with terminal illnesses, it is about someone for whom health insurance is not a problem, and makes sure that her hair is always stunning even when her disease is at its worst. The highly charismatic star enjoys terrific chemistry with all her fellow actors, she’s a superbly comfortable actor who rarely has a problem fitting in with the landscape of any project she works on, but there’s no denying the unintelligent sentimentality of what feels like a TV movie at odds with her sharper instincts. The film also unwisely ignores a surprisingly excellent Bosworth, whose mini-Jackie O routine could provide an interesting reason for contrast with her determined and ambitious mother and shows her at the most compelling she’s been in her entire career. Sadly, she is shunted off to the background in place of scenes with Stewart as the daughter pursuing theatre and admirably rejecting the comforts of upper middle class life that this film so readily indulges in. Stewart as performer is actually suited well to the role, her constantly seeming like she’d love to sleep in and not be on a movie set probably at its least obvious here, but her slack energy makes for painful dead screen time when her character is performing Chekhov and Tony Kushner. Films like Iris and Away From Her are vastly superior examinations of Alzheimer’s (even though they are told from the point of view of the husbands of the women in question), while this one feels like a modern day version of Dark Victory but doesn’t own up to its contrivances and, as a result, feels clichéd instead of touching.