Moore plays the title character, a linguistics teacher at Columbia University in New York. She has a career, a loving husband (Alec Baldwin), three grown children Anna (Kate Bosworth), Lydia (Kristen Stewart) and Tom (Hunter Parrish) and early onset Alzheimer’s. She’s a woman who reveled in intellectual success, proud of her vocabulary and mental prowess but lately she can’t remember the small things. She blanks on people’s names and gets lost in familiar places.
Before she becomes incapable of looking after herself she records a message to her future self. In it she describes a contingency plan, a way to end the suffering that will be easy on her and the family.
Later in the film, when we finally see the video message, we are struck by the duality of Moore’s performance. The transformation from early onset to full blown Alzheimer’s has been subtle but constant. Placing her afflicted self side-by-side with her healthier being displays the depth, beauty and subtly of Moore’s work. It’s a showstopper of a sequence that cleverly displays Alice’s deterioration and Moore’s mastery of the character.
Also notable is Kristen Stewart who delivers a rough hewn but tender version of a daughter who is occasionally frustrated by her mother’s situation but slowly come s to form a deeper relationship with her than anyone else in the film. Her reading of a passage from “Angels in America” and the emotional heft that comes with it should mute the ”Twilight” jokes once and for all.
“Butterflies have short but beautiful lives,” Alice says, and while “Still Alice” doesn’t have the raw intensity of films like “Iris” and “Away From Her,” it is a showcase for a beautiful portrayal of a woman who has everything stripped away from her.