My capsule review of “Still Alice” + pics of World Premiere Q&A at Toronto + Official Trailer

On Monday, September 8, 2014 I attended the highly-anticipated World Premiere of Still Alice at the Toronto International Film Festival. The sold-out screening was held in the historic 1000-seat Winter Garden Theatre. The film was a selection in the Special Presentations section.

The word "Oscar" is often tossed around flippantly among fans and press, but that exalted word just may apply to Julianne Moore's gutsy performance in Still Alice. Based on the best-selling 2007 novel by Lisa Genova, Moore plays Alice Howland, a brilliant professor of linguistics at New York's Columbia University whose life begins to fall apart in the wake of a devastating diagnosis. Those tasked with keeping her whole and alive include her husband John (Alec Baldwin) and adult children Lydia (Kristen Stewart), Tom (Hunter Parrish), and Anna (Kate Bosworth).     

Still Alice will hit close to home for many, as there's little doubt most audience members will have had an Alice somewhere in their families. Not only is this painfully true in my case, but much of the film was shot in "the dunes" section of the little hamlet of Lido Beach, New York, on the south shore of Long Island, where I spent a very memorable portion of my life growing up. I recognized the dunes and cracking cement streets right away, and felt a chill run down my spine as Julianne Moore and Kristen Stewart strolled down the very block on which I met my high school sweetheart and walked our faithful collie, Alex (who we almost lost one night in the dark on those dunes). I also attended Junior High and High School in Lido Beach, and my mother worked there for over 30 years. The experience was bittersweet, with the actions of Stewart's character, as the youngest child, most mirroring my own. Other recognizable New York locations include Dobbs Ferry and The Bronx. The picture was shot a mere six months ago, in March 2014, and rushed through post-production to make its World Premiere at TIFF.

Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland developed the screenplay and co-directed the movie. Westmoreland had a wildly successful career as a gay porn filmmaker before teaming up with Glatzer on 2001's The Fluffer. Their other big screen directorial credits include Quinceañera (2006) and The Last of Robin Hood (2013). Quinceañera earned Westmoreland and Glatzer numerous awards including both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award for Best Dramatic Feature at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. That film also earned the pair a coveted John Cassavetes Award at 2007's Film Independent Spirit Awards. Glatzer oversaw 206 episodes of America's Top Model from 2003-2013. Still Alice is the fifth feature for Glatzer, Westmoreland's fourth. 

Cinematographer Denis Lenoir has worked on over 100 feature films, shorts, television movies, and series episodes. Recent credits include Paris, je t'aime (2006), 88 Minutes (2007), and Righteous Kill (2008). Lenoir shot Eden, starring Greta Gerwig and Brady Corbet, which also appears in this year's Special Presentations section. Editor Nicolas Chaudeurge's credits include Red Road, one of my 2006 festival favorites, along with 2009's Fish Tank. Composer Ilan Eshken was Music Producer on one of my festival faves from 2005, Fierce People (also starring Kristen Stewart). He wrote the music for close to 50 films, including Hannibal Rising, Stardust, The Young Victoria, Ninja Assassin, Kick-Ass, Coriolanus, Austenland, and 47 Ronin

Executive Producers were Marie Savare, Killer Films' legendary Christine Vachon, Maria Shriver, Emilie Georges, Nicholas Shumaker, Celine Rattray, and Trudie Styler. It was produced by Lex Lutzus and James Brown for Lutzus-Brown, along with Pamela Koffler for Killer Films.  

For a synopsis see the festival's official page.

Co-writer/co-director Wash Westmoreland introduced the film. Following a rare standing ovation, one of very few I witnessed at the festival, he returned for an exciting and informative post-screening Q&A with the powers behind the production. The group included producers Lex Lutzus and James Brown of Lutzus-Brown, Pamela Koffler and Christine Vachon of Killer Films, Maria Shriver's producing partner Elizabeth Gelfand Stearns of the Alzheimer's Association, Executive Producer Marie Savare, and author Lisa Genova, along with stars Kate Bosworth and Julianne Moore.

Here are some pictures I shot during the intro and Q&A:

GALLERY (58 photos)

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NOTE: I selected Still Alice as one of my Top 10 from the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.

UPDATE: Check out this new official trailer released on December 8:

 



Author

Larry Richman

Larry Richman

For 20 years I was a professional in the entertainment industry, from commercial broadcast radio in America's fourth largest market to band management to record production. But my passion is independent film, and I spend much of the year traveling to film festivals to see indies and meet the actors, directors, and others responsible for creating them. I'm a writer, photographer, and videographer, currently serving as Senior Vice President for Media & Technology and Public Relations at PROnetworks as well as Editor at Larry411.com

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