Still Alice

Dr. kathleen kozak
Internal medicine, Straub Clinic and Hospital

Where and with whom did you see the movie?

I saw the film at Kahala Consolidated Theatres, Friday the 13th, with my husband, Dan McLaughlin.

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Dr. Kathleen Kozak

Overall, what did you think?

Dr. Alice Howland, played by Julianne Moore, is a linguistics professor at Columbia University who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease at the very prime of her career. Everyone who has ever lost their keys or forgotten an important meeting will suddenly doubt themselves with the same sense of wonderment as Alice, hoping to convince themselves it’s all just the reality of aging. But, in this case, we in the audience have a front-row seat to how devastating the effects of Alzheimer’s can be on the whole family, and the difficult choices that everyone has to make as a result.

Without giving away the ending, what was one of your favorite scenes?

Alice gives a speech, something she was so adept at doing in front of an intellectual audience, but this time, it’s about herself, and her dealing with the continued betrayal of her memory and its decline. It’s a call to action to all of us to do more to support our local chapter of Alzheimer’s Association, and help to find a cure for this devastating disease.

On a scale of one to four stars, what would you rate this film?

The subject matter is somewhat depressing, but the way it’s handled and the superb acting give it a ★★★ 1/2 star rating in my book.

Because I know the details from the book, I know what the various characters do in the end, but the movie seems to leave things hanging a bit.

What did you think of the cinematography?

One of the most insightful uses of the camera is the slow blur of the moments from the present and past, illustrating the fading and merging of memories for Alice as her disease progresses. The technique is subtle but very effective, with it’s message that sometimes what we think we are seeing is all in our memory.

Was the message/theme clear?

If the purpose was to scare all of us about our subtle changes in memory, well, that was quite successful, as everyone will question themselves even more now, wondering if memory loss is in their future.

Did it remind you of any other works of film?

Yes, I just watched The Theory of Everything. Both films dealt with the harsh physical reality of having a serious medical illness and how much it affects not only the person dealing with the disease, but also everyone around them.

Who would you recommend this movie to?

Anyone who likes a good character piece will appreciate the acting and family dynamics. Of course, those who have ever had a loved one suffer from memory loss will gain a new understanding of the fear that is overwhelming not just from the perspective of the Alzheimer’s sufferer, but of the whole family as well.

Did any of the actors stand out?

Julianne Moore gave the performance of a lifetime, using her acting methods and also the progressive change in her appearance as ways to demonstrate the changes her character undergoes throughout the film.

Did you identify with any of the characters?

I wish I didn’t, but everyone has to think that perhaps they might be struck by this memory thief of a disease at some point in their lifetime, and so I’d have to say the main character, Dr. Alice Howland, which scares me a bit too much.

Would you buy this movie when it comes out on DVD?

If I hadn’t seen the movie on the big screen, yes. But once is enough to scare me into doing more memory games and keeping my brain as healthy as possible. Watching it more than once might help to pick up more of the subtleties the movie has to offer, but the main point is easy to grasp the first time around.

On a different note, what’s new with you?

Working at Straub keeps me busy, but I’m also about to have a five-year anniversary of hosting The Body Show on Hawaii Public Radio, which airs Mondays (live) at 5 p.m. on HPR 2.