Welcome, ladies and gentleman, to that time of the year when the trickle of Oscar frontrunners starts to become a flood and we, too, can play like Academy voters to determine who should win.
First up, a truly “Oscar-worthy” film –and I mean that in a nice way – the story of a heralded linguistics professor who develops early onset Alzheimer’s disease. While the dark irony inherent in the set-up is not subtle, Still Alice boasts restrained, natural performances from its entire cast, and perfectly conveys the delicate devastation of watching a loved one slip away.
As is to be expected, Julianne Moore’s central performance is laden with sensitivity and integrity. There isn’t room for the showmanship of Eddie Redmayne’s slow decline as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything (for which he is bound to deservedly win Best Actor) – but Moore’s rendering of gradual internal deterioration is astute and may evoke pain for viewers whose experience is projected on screen.
This is Moore’s fifth Oscar nomination, and given she recently took the Golden Globe, this could finally be her year. Experience gained during her long career of playing shattered women (notably Far From Heaven and The Hours, though her range extends also to the hilariously flawed in Maps to the Stars and What Maisie Knew) is none more evident than when Alice conveys the terror of realising she will lose the faculties which have thus far defined her identity. As the disease takes grip, it is equally heartbreaking in a scene where she mistakes her own child for an actor.
In strong support, Alec Baldwin is impressively multi-layered as the husband who must grapple with being supportive as well as selfish. As Alice’s daughter, Kristen Stewart is a particular revelation, nailing memories of Twilight’s Bella into a coffin once and for all.
The hardworking writer-directors, Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, have adapted Lisa Genova’s novel, and are to be applauded for their sensitive depiction of a reality that may be sadly resonant for many viewers. But it is Moore from whom we cannot tear our eyes away, and Moore who should be walking up those steps on the big night.