Perhaps the best way to describe this movie is as a bunch of performances in search of a script. That may seem harsh, but writers/directors Glatzer and Westmoreland (Quinceanera) just couldn’t focus their approach, but I’ll get to that. The performances are worth noticing first, then I can discuss the film as a whole. Otherwise, the efforts of the actors will be unfairly lost in the noise.
Moore (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay), in the titular role, delivers a solid, slow disintegration of her character, from the early moments of recognition that she has Alzheimer’s, to the final frame. Much like Redmayne’s Hawking, I could find no fault with the physicality or path. She is, as always, solid and convincing.
Her family, filled in primarily by Baldwin (Blue Jasmine), Stewart (Snow White and the Huntsman), and Bosworth (Wonderland) were just cyphers, even though they each had subplots provided to give them some drive and depth. The brothers aren’t even worth mentioning they were so in the background. We never really get to know any of them or feel their struggles. Stewart comes closest to having some substance, but she isn’t a strong enough screen presence to make it gel.
Honestly, it isn’t her, or even the rest of the “family’s” lack of ability so much as how their screen time and script were used. There are just no beats that give us a connection. Oddly, the most complete character outside of Alice was Kunken’s (The Wolf of Wall Street) Dr. Benjamin, who managed to show significant layers with little time–but his struggle we could understand outside of the family involved, so he had an advantage.
Moore’s performance is worth seeing, but the surrounding story is mere excuse to provide that to us. Glatzer and Westmoreland wanted to fuse a documentarian approach with a fictional tale. The editing was even structured to feel more like Moore’s point of view, skipping through time like her own awareness. Clever, but because of the disjointedness and leaps through time, it never really comes together emotionally. You end up distanced rather than involved for Moore. You end up angry rather than sympathetic for the family. You, essentially, end up with nothing other than some information and a sad fate to ponder. And this was a movie, after all. I wanted more. Despite focusing on and being seen from Alice’s point of view, it lacked the intimacy of similar tales, such as Amour.
To be fair, the subject matter is not easy, and they certainly set up Alice to fall from a great height. However, in their attempt to provide a new view of the experience, they lost the only point of view that could experience it: the unaffected. That is the saddest reality of the disease: those with it are unaware of what is going on. Once they have crossed the most horrible of lines, that of knowing they’re losing their memories, losing themselves, the real world no longer has a hold on them. I give them credit for trying, but the result was less than they probably hoped… other than Moore’s performance.