Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Still Alice moves

Movie:   Still Alice

Grade:  A-

In a Nutshell:   Julianne Moore won a Golden Globe for her stellar performance in this important drama.  The script isn’t brilliant, but Julianne’s use of subtle nuance is.  Her grace and skill in this realistic, heart-breaking film is what earned her a well-deserved award..  My mother has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, so this movie felt very personal to me.   It’s hard to watch someone you love lose herself.

Uplifting Theme:
·         My grandmother lost her memory long before her body finally gave out.  On the other hand, my father-in-law’s mind was super sharp until the day his body stopped.  I’ve often wondered which way of dying is worse.  If you could choose, which way would you want to go?  I think the goal is to be kind and brave until the end.
·         Alice uses the keyword “butterfly” on her computer as an important marker, as well as wear butterfly jewelry that has symbolic meaning.  A butterfly  represents change and metamorphosis; our lives are constantly evolving.  Later, Alice comments “butterflies don’t live a long time, but they have a nice life.”

Things I liked:
·         My mother has become very childlike as her Alzheimer’s has progressed.  So did Alice.  I appreciated the accurate details in the movie that showed the writers and directors had truly researched this debilitating illness that affects an estimated 5.1 million people in America in 2015.
·         Alice does all of the right things to exercise her brain, including use mobile apps like “Words with Friends”.  What are you doing to give your brain a workout?  She also takes good care of her body.  Alice’s doctor says “Get some exercise.  It’s good to get the blood pumping.  Hydration helps memory.”
·         It was fun to see Alec Baldwin and Julianne Moore together again as a couple.  They played a dysfunctional, but passionate couple on the comedy TV show 30 Rock: The Complete Series (Seasons 1-7 Bundle) many years ago.  As a married couple, they modeled a good example of informing themselves of the issues and asking good questions of Alice’s doctor.  It’s important to take an active role in your health and work with your health care professionals, rather than blindly accept whatever they say.
·         I thought it was interesting that the camera didn’t focus on the doctor in the beginning.  He didn’t make eye contact with the patient which, sadly, happens to me.  That’s so annoying and unprofessional.  My aunt was visiting a doctor who never looked at her husband, the patient.  Instead, the doctor sat at his desk, typing on his computer.  Finally, my aunt was fed up with the doctor and sharply scolded him by saying “You might want to look up from your monitor to actually see your patient.”  True story.
·         As a college professor, I have a twisted love for big words.  Ironically, Alice teaches phenology (the study of the sound of language) at Colombia University and is surrounded by academic nerds who use words like “vituperatively” (bitter and abusive), “seminal” (of a work or event that strongly influences later developments), and lexicon (the vocabulary of a person or branch of knowledge).
-    I thought it was important to show the affect this illness has on the family.

Things I didn’t like:
·         This is a serious movie with only a little bit of subtle humor.   It ends with a good message, but it can be quite depressing.  With an inevitable end of life, I was curious to see at which point of Alice's illness the movie would finish.

Insightful lines:
·         “Who can take us seriously when we are so far from what we once were?” – Alice
·         “Live in the moment.  That’s all I can do.”  - Alice
·         “Nothing is lost forever.” – Lydia (Kristen Stewart)
·         “It’s all about love.” – Lydia
·         “Now, you may say this falls into the great academic tradition of knowing more and more about less and less, until we know everything about nothing.” – Alice
·         “I wish I had cancer. “ – Alice
“Don’t say that.” – Dr. John Howland
“No, I do.  I mean it.  I mean I wouldn’t be so ashamed.  People have cancer and they wear pink ribbons for you , and go on long walks to raise money, and you don’t have to feel like some kind of a social…I can’t remember the word…”  - Alice
·         “I don’t have to be fair – I’m your mother.” – Alice

Tips for Parents:
·         This isn’t exactly a movie for children; however, if they have a loved one who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it might create an environment for discussion. 
·         There is one F-bomb in the movie, which is spoken by Alice.  When my grandmother neared the end of her life with Alzheimer’s, her sweet little lips turned into a foul-mouthed sailor’s!  We had never heard her use profanity before!  You have to  keep a sense of humor even with the most serious of illnesses.

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