Tag Archives: Julianne Moore

Still Alice

Still Alice film posterSynopsis

Based on a novel by neuroscientist Lisa Genova starring Julianne Moore as Alice, a professor of linguistics who, after becoming forgetful of words and on one occasion of her whereabouts, is told she will suffer Alzheimer’s disease.  Still Alice follows the emotional impact on herself and her family.  Her husband is played by Alec Baldwin.  Her daughter Lydia (Kirsten Stewart) learns there is a likelihood of her being a future sufferer.  Alice becomes increasingly helpless as the disease takes hold.


Back in the ’80s and ’90s there were films about social issues such as domestic violence and depression and these were dealt with in an often bland fashion.   Given our supposed advances since then in cultural sensitivity Still Alice manages to look like Hollywood looking after it’s own.  It’s fortunate that Alice is affluent and surrounded by caring academic liberals who are all smart, and of course, beautiful.  The prospects for those of lower status, or the poor, would be so much grimmer thus unfit for mainstream viewing.  Given these limitations, the film just about manages to convey the menace to domesticity in the way of thrillers.  You get the early scenes of domestic bliss (usually the family has just moved into a new home) and then the threat arises.  It’s a neat way of melodramatizing for a two hour production.  The cold panic in loss of memory and control are reasonably shown, and the film largely avoids the trap of facile sentimentality that you might get in a film about cancer, but only just.There is poetic acknowledgement of the role of memory in identity and of course the loss of this is the horror.  There is a quote from the poet Elizabeth Bishop in the speech Alice gives about possible responses to its onset.  Alice arranges for her suicide when the disease takes over.  Leaving the shower gel in the fridge is a startling sign of the disease.  Still Alice avoids the physical effects (except for incontinence because of not being able to find the bathroom), so is this an evasion of a responsibility to deal with reality?  Emotional coping is what the family has to offer but of course we can’t know the subjective reality of Alzheimer’s.  There is need to go further in this subject.

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Posted by on March 30, 2015 in At the cinema, Film Reviews


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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 film posterSynopsis

Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is with the underground rebel movement and is being designed as its leader.  Julianne Moore  is the rebel president.  Alma Coin (Donald Sutherland) is her foe, President Snow of Capitol.  Both rebel and Capitol forces attack each other. Katniss invents the mockingjay song as the anthem of revolution.  Her friend Peeta from Catching Fire has been brainwashed by the government and he is interviewed by impresario Stanley Tucci.  The rebels cut off Capitol’s power and infiltrate it.  Will they rescue Peeta?


The first book of Hunger Games has been split in two as the franchise takes its cue from the Harry Potter gravy train.  Mockingjay appears to have jettisoned the futurism of the previous films, as decadent nabobs have scrapped the make up for the born again puritan look in boiler suits, and Katniss has settled for teen war chic as (rather approprietely with ironic intentions as to the power of film) she engages in a media image as well as an arms war.  Our heroes stroll through the war rubble like world-redeeming rock stars, posing against disaster backdrops as if telling us this is what’s happening right now in some parts of the world.  Jennifer Lawrence is a pretty good teen hero model. She has the charisma and the face for it, she is a sci-fi messiah as a feminist riposte to Paul in Dune.  The film is going for contemporary relevance not just regarding the horrors of war but also enviromental disaster.  Julianne Moore is icily effective as the iron-like president, as she and her team create a charismatic role for Katniss.  This, for me, is a canny self acknowledgement of Mockingjay’s own merchandizing power as a franchise, as it fosters luvvie delusions about being spokespersons for the world.  It appears to be distancing itself from the other teen franchises too, as it tries to be a thinking person’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Why Katniss would love someone as feeble as Peeta is a mystery since she is superior in every way.  There is an inescapable aura of sadness in this film because of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death..



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Posted by on January 14, 2015 in At the cinema, Film Reviews


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Maps to the Stars

Maps to the Stars ilm posterSynopsis

David Cronenberg’s film about Agatha (Mia Wasikowska) who goes to Hollywood to be employed as a “chore whore” by Havana (Julianne Moore).  Agatha meets her film star 13 year old brother Benjie (Evan Bird).  John Cusack plays a therapist to the stars, he is their father.  Agatha has been scarred by a fire she started.  We see the lives of the pampered Hollywood set and it could all end tragically…


Cronenberg specialized in horror films, the weird graphic depiction of psychological horror becoming real.  He is fascinated by physical perversion and degeneration (The Fly), and this movie presents us with monsters of depravity by pampering.  It’s interesting that though these worthless people think of themselves as decadently freewheeling, they have a very anal attitude to everyday property.  When Agatha soils on an expensive sofa, Havana can only protest like a lower middle class matron shoving the lower orders off her lawn.  Moore does another good actorly turn as a superbitch full of self disgust.  Benjie is the teenage star as malevolent midget (was Macaulay Culkin like this?), he is fuelled with self regard that has him slide down the gilded pole to unlamented destruction.  Cusack is the poisonous purveyor of vacuous psycho babble and new age quackery, the sort of role that shouldn’t go near a rich man’s swimming pool because you know something terrible is going to happen near it or in it.  The swimming pool has been a dystopian fixture in many moral tales, most notably in The Swimmer.  Cusack looks like a warped pervert in clown face white, it’s expected he’ll do something nasty and he does.  In The Brood (1979) Cronenberg invented sexless monsters as the creatures of a tormented woman, and Agatha and Benjie are similarly ripe for destruction.  One thinks of other movies exhibiting the reptilian horror of Hollywood folk: All About Eve, Postcard from the Edge, Mommie Dearest, Sunset Boulevarde.  The trajectory of success through delusion, disillusion, and failure is a shot of poison through the whole film.  Their affluence is a Neronic desolation and they must face moral reckoning.  Robert Pattinson is the chauffeur instead of being the passenger as he was in Cosmopolis.  In Maps he is merely the venal opportunist we expect from a writer who would do anything to get a break in Hollywood.


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Posted by on October 17, 2014 in At the cinema, Film Reviews


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Carrie film posterSynopsis

Repeats the story of the 1976 de Palma film.  Carrie (Chloe Grace Moretz) is bullied at school.  Her fiercely religious mother (an agent of religious repression) is eventually powerless to frustrate Carrie’s desire for normal company.  Carrie uses her telekinetic powers to enact revenge when humiliated as Prom Queen at the ball.


Kimberley Peirce’s Carrie could have been a disaster and it isn’t but it doesn’t develop, elaborate, or in any way improve on Palma’s film.  A remake of this Stephen King story would have to make a good case for itself but it fails to do that, de Palma’s Carrie is unrepeatable since it speaks of its time.  This Carrie is set in 2013 present when there are mobile phones, computers etc.  Chloe Moretz’s Carrie is too self possessed and “normal”, lacking the weird otherworldliness that Sissy Spacek brought to the role.  We’ve also become inured to forty years of special effects ploddingly repeating The Exorcist or Carrie itself.  Peirce’s Carrie simply isn’t capable of bringing any psychological subtlety. Julianne Moore does her best as Carrie’s sadistically evangelistic mother but her control looks more like mere bullying until undone by Carrie’s abilities.  Her control should be more difficult and painful to break free from.  The sanitary towel bullying at the start would be more viciously effective in the less hi-tech world of ’76 but could Moretz’s Carrie really be so insulated from biological reality in today’s world?  Any scariness that the film can summon consists in the nasty politics of young women at high school and this has too much competition with similar films over the decades to be effective.  Watchable, but really quite pointless.

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Posted by on January 19, 2014 in At the cinema, Film Reviews


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