Julianne Moore stars as Alice Howland, a linguistics professor, a Ph.D. who celebrates her 50th birthday with her family. Her husband John, played by Alec Baldwin, is a doctor with offers to work at the Mayo Clinic. She also has three adult children. Her eldest daughter Anna, played by Kate Bosworth, is a medical student who's married and with twins on the way. Her middle child Tom, played by Hunter Parrish, is a law student. Her youngest daughter Lydia, played by Kristen Stewart, is an aspiring actress who moved out to Los Angeles unlike everyone else who lives in New York.
The movie is mostly a series of get-together events with Alice and her family over the course of a year or so, starting with her birthday and ending with the births of her first grandchildren. Despite being a pending grandmother, she still seems incredibly young. She's a vivacious teacher at Columbia University. She runs or jogs regularly. She's whip-smart and funny. We see so in her speeches, lectures or personal interactions.
Yet, after she has a few bizarre episodes, she goes to a neurologist who diagnoses her with Alzheimer's disease. Moore does a good job of portraying this woman dealing with this illness as it deconstructs her bit by bit. However, with the exception of one moment, the scenes that noticeably demonstrate Alice's Alzheimer's are not what sold the film for me.
What sells the movie is almost everything else about it. The scene where Alice has to tell John alone at night is a knockout. The scene where she has to tell her children is terrifying, especially when the fear in her eyes hits that her condition could be genetic. The scene where she has to tell her boss at work is embarrassing and demoralizing, as we see her boss' demeanor change from worry to pity and how that kills her.
There are also great moments that have nothing to do with this disease. Many of which involve the relationship between Alice and her youngest Lydia. Alice disapproves of Lydia's profession. She doesn't overly disapprove. She just knows how difficult it is and wants Lydia to go down a more traditional route or have a safety net that Lydia doesn't want. The tug-of-war that plays out between them is very well done.
Kristen Stewart who plays Lydia is particularly good. She and Julianne Moore are great together. They have the best Alzheimer's moment after Alice attends her daughter's stage play. Stewart has a great speech at the end too, which is heartbreaking. Five Stars out of Five. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, and brief language including a sexual reference. Running Time: 1 hr. and 39 mins. Played One Week in NY and LA on Dec. 5. Opens nationwide on Jan. 16.