Still Alice (Blu-ray)

May 5, 2015 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

There are things in life that are out of our control. And that sucks. Some people are dealt a losing hand when it comes to their health, accidental things happen and as we age we learn one thing: life isn’t always fair. I can only imagine what it would be to lose one’s mind. To know what you want to say to “have the words hanging right there in front of me” as Julianne Moore’s character says, but “to not be able to do anything about it.” I think if that might be among the most frustrating things in the world. Still Alice follows the story of Alice Howland and won Julianne Moore her first Best Actress Academy Award. I actually had to look it up, but she’s been nominated for times previously (Boogie Nights, The End of the Affair and was nominated in both the leading and supporting category in 2003 for Far From Heaven and The Hours). However it wasn’t until this role that she finally took home Oscar gold.

Alice Howland (Julianne Moore) is a renown linguistics professor at Columbia University. She starts to notice that she’s forgetting things on a more frequent basis and decides to get herself checked out. After being diagnosed with Early-Onset Alzheimers, she and husband John (Alec Baldwin) must find a way to deal with the impending trials that the disease will bring. The film also focuses on the relationship between Alice and her kids. Lydia (Kristen Stewart), the black sheep of the family, is an aspiring actress. Anna (Kate Bosworth) has learned that she’s pregnant and Charlie (Shane McRae) is trying to comprehend the news. Add to this that John is set for a big promotion to the Mayo Clinic amidst this newfound information. As Alice struggles to retain some semblance of who she was, the film explores the consequences of the curves that life can throw you.

Admittedly, Still Alice isn’t an easy movie to watch. My grandfather had Alzheimers and it’s frustrating and saddening to look into a family member’s eyes and see that they have no recollection of who you are. I suppose the real question surrounds Julianne Moore and her accolades for this part. She won the Best Actress Oscar for her role and I was wondering if it was well-deserved. I think it was. Moore has proven herself in countless roles in the past and this was the one that garnered her the coveted statue.  She’s surrounded by an ensemble of talented actors as well with Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart (who is nice to see in anything not involving vampires) and Kate Bosworth. I think the subject matter is handled effectively and with an element of compassion and it’s certainly a film to be seen. Recommended.

Video: How’s it look?

The 1.85:1 AVC HD image looks, by and large, amazing. There are several “tricks” within the film that switch from a soft focus to normal focus (for obvious reasons) and really seemed to convey the feeling of someone going in and out of memory loss. Colors are warm and bright, Moore’s red hair tends to jump off the screen. There are some good location shots of New York which really show off the detail of the image. This is a good-looking film that really tends to set the mood and tone. No complaints here.

Audio: How’s it sound?

I think the one word to best describe this film is subdued. Granted, the DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack has a few moments, but there are so many subtle nuances throughout this film, that I felt more like I was listening in on a conversation than trying to turn my head and follow sound. If there ever was the definition of a dialogue-driven soundtrack, this certainly fits the bill. Ilan Eshkeri’s soundtrack does have a few moments, but I found myself so engrossed in the film, I’m hard-pressed to cite specific examples.

Supplements: What are the extras?

DVD Extra

  • Finding Alice – The lone DVD supplement shows Moore as she prepares for her role as well as her work with real-life Alzheimer’s patient, Sandy Oltz.

Blu-ray Exclusives

  • Directing Alice – If the movie didn’t leave you broken up enough, then watching this feature won’t make things much better. Co-Writers and Co-Directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland describe their motivations for the film, though we learn that Glatzer had succumbed to complications from ALS on March 10, 2015. Still, this should serve as a testament to his work and gives us some insight on the direction of the film.
  • Deleted Scenes – Three total with an original introduction being the highlight of the batch.
  • Interview with Composer Ilan Eshkeri – Nothing too much of substance here as Eshkeri describes how his score fits into the theme of the film.
  • Theatrical Trailer

The Bottom Line

After four previous Oscar nominations, Julianne Moore has finally gone home with the Oscar in Still Alice. The film deals with an issue that many people around the world deal with and does it in a warm and caring manner. While not for everyone, it does showcase Moore’s talents as an actress. The Blu-ray offers up amazing video quality along with a nuanced audio track and a bevy of supplements.

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