Tag Archives: kristen stewart

Review – Still Alice (12a) [2015]

Still Alice - titler banner

Star Rating: 4.5/5

Directors:

  • Richard Glatzer – Grief, The Fluffer, The Last of Robin Hood
  • Wash Westmoreland – The Fluffer, Totally Gay!, The Last of Robin Hood

Cast:

  • Julianne Moore – Nine Months, Children of Men, The Kids Are Alright, Seventh Son
  • Alec Baldwin – Pearl Harbour, The Aviator, Blue Jasmine, Mission: Impossible V
  • Kristen Stewart – Jumper, Twilight I-V, Snow White and The Huntsman, Clouds of Sils Maria
  • Kate Bosworth – Remember The Titans, 21, Straw Dogs, Before I Wake
  • Shane McRae – All Over Again, Killer Pad, The Help, Stereotypically You
  • Hunter Parrish – Steal Me, Freedom Writers, It’s Complicated, Hell Of A View
  • Stephen Kunken – The Girl In The Park, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Wolf of Wall Street, Bridge Of Spies

Music Composer:

  • Ilan Eshkeri – Layer Cake, Kick-Ass, Coriolanus, Black Sea, Don Verdean

Some films have scenes that are genuinely heart-breaking. When Brooks Hatlen (James Whitmore) hangs himself in The Shawkshank Redemption, when Oscar Schindler breaks down in Schindler’s List, and when Simba tries to awaken his fallen father in The Lion King, viewers cannot help but weep at the poignancy of the scenes. Yet, these are only particular scenes that last so long. Still Alice, on the other hand, makes one feel like weeping for pretty much the movie’s entire run time as it is so heart-breaking.

Professor Alice Howland (Julianne Moore) lecturing  her students at the start of the film.

Professor Alice Howland (Julianne Moore) lecturing her students at the start of the film.

Still Alice is based on the book with the same title by Lisa Genova. The movie revolves round Alice Howland (Julianne Moore), a phenomenally intelligent and knowledgeable linguistics professor at Columbia University. She is happily married to John (Alec Baldwin), and between them they have three children: Anna (Kate Bosworth), Tom (Hunter Parrish) and Lydia (Kristen Stewart). They live in a nice house in a good suburb in New York and they have a summer beach house too. Then, at the age of fifty, Alice is diagnosed with Early On-set Alzheimer’s Disease and her world rapidly falls apart.

Still Alice has a simple plot that is expressed exceptionally well. Directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland have uniquely concentrated (with the exception of one scene) on how the disease affects the victim from the victim’s point of view. To illustrate the moments when the Alzheimer’s is hitting Alice, the world around her fades into fuzziness and she forgets where she is and who she is talking to. This makes for painful viewing as Alice was once an intelligent woman. And the pain viewers feel is enhanced by the superb dialogue that explains what Alice is going through in her (failing) mind. More often than not, the dialogue is so painful, one cries as hard as one did in The Shawshank Redemption, Schindler’s List and The Lion King. Indeed, somehow, every time the word ‘Alzheimer’s’ is mentioned, it feels like a blow to the heart, and the blows hurt even more when we learn that the disease is hereditary.

Alice and John (Alec Baldwin) trying to enjoy some good time together whilst Alice is still herself.

Alice and John (Alec Baldwin) trying to enjoy some good time together whilst Alice is still herself.

Undoubtedly, the key to why Still Alice hurts so much is because of Julianne Moore as the titular Alice. Moore has a rare, graceful beauty which works in her favour in, arguably, the performance of her career. (And that is saying something coming from her extraordinary portfolio). Suffice to say, Moore is fully deserving of her triumphs at the Golden Globes, the Baftas, the Screen Writer’s Guild Awards, and the Oscars because she stunningly encapsulates the problems facing a person with Alzheimer’s. Anyone who has seen a relative, friend or family friend suffer from Alzheimer’s (or Dementia or Parkinson’s) knows what is coming for Moore’s character, and one watches with horror as the disease rapidly robs Alice of her memory, her intelligence, her grace and her dignity. Toward the end of the film, there is a scene wherein one can see the contrast between Alice’s/Moore’s graceful appearance at the beginning of the movie and her appearance toward the end of it. Again, it makes for painful viewing and highlights why Moore was the perfect person for the role.

The rest of the cast take on a supporting role (quite literally) throughout the film. Of all the supporting cast, Kristen Stewart is given the most screen-time and exposition. It is easy to sneer at Stewart due to her numerous Golden Raspberry nominations and victories, her terrible acting in the Twilight Saga and Snow White and The Huntsman, and her affair with Rupert Sanders whilst dating Robert Pattinson (and on top of that she plays a failing actress in Still Alice). Nevertheless, Stewart actually plays her role in Still Alice really well and with enough subtlety and nuance to hint that critics may not always have a field day with her in the future.

Stewart might be the most noteworthy member of the supporting cast, but she is not the only one to play with subtlety and nuance. Alec Baldwin, Kate Bosworth and Hunter Parrish all play their parts with equal skill too, to portray the Howlands as a normal, (dys)functioning family. Their character’s, like Stewart’s, may not have anything of note to say, and nor do they add much to the story. But this is not a problem because Still Alice is about how the disease impacts upon Alice, and not how it impacts upon her family.

Alice explaining to Lydia (Kristen Stewart) what it is like for her to have Alzheimer's.

Alice explaining to Lydia (Kristen Stewart) what it is like for her to have Alzheimer’s.

No, the movie’s biggest problem is its ending. The final scene just ends anti-climactically, as if Glatzer and Westmoreland ran out of ideas and decided enough was enough. (One hopes that that was not the case, but it feels like it.) Another issue, perhaps, is that the film’s music is unmemorable and that it has been heard before in other films. However, these are relatively small matters, and backhandedly highlight the brilliance of Still Alice.

Over-all, Still Alice is a poignant film that makes for heart-breaking and teary viewing. Due to the acting and the dialogue, the movie superbly demonstrates and elucidates upon how a person with Alzheimer’s Disease sees the world. Central to the film, is Julianne Moore’s incredible performance as the eponymous Alice as it enables viewers to feel the pain that a victim of the disease goes through. In turn, this leaves viewers devastated long after Still Alice concludes.

PG’s Tips

Advertisements

Review – Snow White and the Huntsman (12a) [2012]

Star Rating: 2.5/5

Hollywood has a thing for bastardising stories. With varying enjoyment, films like Troy, Kingdom of Heaven and Eragon all had little to do with their original narratives to the extent that one might be surprised that their respective creators bothered to keep the right names for the characters. Similarly, Snow White and the Huntsman might be entertaining, but it has little to do with the German folklore tale, ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’, that was first written down by Brothers Grimm in 1812.

Queen Ravenna, in all her splendour, furious to learn that there is one fairer than her.

The film opens with three drops of blood falling onto snow after Queen Eleanor (Liberty Ross – Thinly Veiled, W.E.) pricks herself. Eleanor is praying for a beautiful and fair daughter with raven-black hair, and the strength of a red rose against snow. Yet, not long after she gets her wish and gives birth to Snow White (when young played by Raffey Cassidy – Dark Shadows; when of age played by Kristen Stewart – Twilight I-V, On The Road, Still Alice), Eleanor dies. Shortly afterward, King Magnus (Noah Huntley – The Chronicles of Narnia I, Your Highness, Jappeloup) marries Ravenna (Charlize Theron – Monster, Prometheus, Hancock I & II), a woman with terrible supernatural powers to keep her forever looking young and strikingly attractive.

No sooner is the king betrothed to Ravenna she usurps the throne and locks up her young step-daughter. As the years go by, Queen Ravenna regularly turns to her magic mirror to remind herself that she is the fairest of them all. That is, until one day when the mirror tells her that Snow White is fairer. It is then that Ravenna orders her brother, Finn (Sam Spruell – The Hurt Locker, Defiance, Enemy of Man), to bring her the imprisoned princess.

But it is then that Snow White escapes, fleeing to the Dark Forest where Ravenna has no power. So Ravenna hires Eric the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth – Thor I & II, The Avengers Assemble, Red Dawn) to find and kill her…

Snow White and the Huntsman is an enjoyable movie. Set in a medieval-like world (even though the story originates from around the eighteenth-century), the sceneries are fitting, and the towns and villages, not to mention their inhabitants, are filthy in a realistic way for the period.

Snow White, wet and filthy, trying to defend herself against Eric the Huntsman in the Dark Forest.

Nevertheless, the plot has as much accuracy to the Grimm Brother’s tale as Patroclus does being Achilles’ cousin in Troy (when he is meant to be his lover) and Arya having reddish-brown hair in Eragon (when she is meant to have raven-black hair). Indeed, Snow White and the Huntsman has a multitude of storyline deviations, such as Queen Eleanor shedding three drops of blood (since that comes from another folklore story, called ‘Snow White and Rose Red’) and the huntsman being hired by the evil queen to find Snow White (since in ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’ he helps Snow White escape to the Dark Forest to save her from Ravenna).

Ravenna as the ‘evil queen’ is one of many clichéd characters in the film. On screen, Ravenna rules in a typically cruel manner and is invariably screeching wicked commands at her advisers; Snow White is an idyllic (dull) angel who hardly knows how to hold a knife, let alone kill someone with it; the huntsman is the stupid, axe-wielding, drunken lout turned noble protector of the princess; and the seven dwarves (at least that stays true to the original story) are almost as one-dimensional as in the 1937 Disney cartoon animation.

Thor… Eric the Huntsman ready to bury his axe into anyone attempting to hurt Snow White.

Due to the lack of depth in all of the characters, the cast has little room to show their talents. Oscar-winner Charlize Theron gives a distinctly ordinary performance as Ravenna; Sam ‘Anders Breivik lookalike’ Spruell is nothing short of wimpish and pitiful; Kristen Stewart gives a stronger performance than she does in the Twilight saga, but she only ever has one expression on her face throughout the film, and her pre-battle speech is laughably appalling; Chris Hemsworth’s display is ostensibly the same as his hammer-swinging one in Thor and The Avengers Assemble, just with a humorous Scottish accent and minus the overt arrogance; and Ian McShane (The Golden Compass, Pirates of the Caribbean IV, Jack the Giant Killer), Bob Huskins (Hook, Made In Dagenham, Aleksander Rouge), Ray Winstone (The Departed, Edge of Darkness, The Sweeney), Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead, Paul, Cuban Fury) and Toby Jones (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Hunger Games, The Girl) are all funny as the gruff dwarves, but they pale in comparison to Peter Dinklage’s performance as the deeply complex, witty Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones.

All-in-all, Snow White and the Huntsman is an enjoyable film with decent settings and an attractive cast. The actors might give average performances and the characters they portray might be over-simplistic caricatures of good and evil, but it is the movie’s drift away from the original tale that is most striking. Just like with The Iliad, the history of the Third Crusades, and Eragon, Hollywood has shredded a good story in an attempt to make it fit a narrative supposedly more suitable to modern day audiences with a derisible outcome.

PG’s Tips