Film No 14 (2015) : Still Alice

still aliceSomewhat tactlessly, I bought a copy of Lisa Genova’s ‘Still Alice’ for a friend’s birthday; as the subject matter is a 50-year old university lecturer who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease, it was no doubt a little thoughtless. However, it’s a great read. The novel is extremely poignant and moving; the film adaptation probably more so given the number of us in the audience who spent at least part of the showing with tears rolling unchecked down our cheeks.

Alice is a university professor and she has a particular interest in the acquisition of language. It is a cruel twist of fate when she starts to forget words; how to choose the appropriate one and the meanings of long-familiar ones. As her faculties begin to falter, she seeks the advice of a hospital specialist who diagnoses Alzheimer’s Disease. The film depicts her gradual deterioration from a high-functioning, articulate academic to a shadow of what she was. By the end of the film, Alice is almost completely dependent upon her family for her care and support.

Julianne Moore won the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of the eponymous Alice and it is easy to understand why. She plays this part with such respect for Alice, so that the character’s dignity is never diminished, despite the cruel progression of the disease. There are moments of heart-wrenching sadness, hence the communal tears. The main resonance of the film is the insight into the fact that Alice’s debilitating illness is not confined to the older generation. When we left the cinema, there were some volunteers (also crying) collecting for the charity ‘Young Dementia UK‘. What a worthy cause.

Film No 12 (2015) : The Hunger Games – Mockingjay Part 1

mocking 1The end of the second Hunger Games movie (Catching Fire) was full of suspense; Katniss Everdeen, having survived the Games, uses a flash of lightning and a well-timed arrow to destroy the Games arena. She is taken to District 13, leaving behind fellow Tributes Peeta and Annie. So far, so exciting. What is going to happen to them all?

In Mockingjay Part 1, Katniss and her family are being sheltered in District 13. There, President Coin persuades the young markswoman to become the face of an uprising to unseat the Capitol and its leader, President Snow. Katniss agrees, on condition that Peeta and Annie are rescued as soon as possible. Peeta is used in propaganda films and it is obvious that he is being mistreated in some way. Nevertheless, he manages to forewarn District 13 that it is about to be attacked by the Capitol, allowing 13’s inhabitants to seek shelter. Following the attack, Peeta and Annie are liberated from the clutches of President Snow. Katniss’ joy at being reunited with Peeta is shortlived once it becomes apparent that he has been poisoned into believing that he must kill her. The film ends with Peeta seen thrashing around in a fury, having been restrained in a hospital room.

Sorry to be so unreservedly negative, but this film is boring (I tried to think of a more apposite adjective, but was too bored to bother) and drawn-out, with unconvincing acting; Liam Hemsworth as Gale is about as inspiring as an ironing board and Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss) is only marginally better. There are endless scenes of Coin addressing massed crowds of supporters, resulting in saluting and chanting.

The films are based upon the YA novels by Suzanne Collins and have a devoted fan base. This film was the 5th highest grossing movie of 2014, earning $752,100,229 worldwide. The books are a trilogy but in increasingly typical fashion (The Hobbit, Harry Potter), one book has been spilt into more than one film. Call me cynical, but my instinct tells me that this is purely a ruse to wring as much cash out of moviegoers as possible. Because there is simply not enough material in this film to make it exciting. Mockingjay Part 2 is released in November 2015 but I won’t be rushing to see it; my appetite for the Hunger Games disappeared with this bland fare.