Everyone’s talking about it: This year’s two female acting categories are, at this admittedly early date, looking extremely thin. In the lead actress category, of what has already been screened, the one and only slam-dunk contender is Reese Witherspoon (Wild). Of what is still to come, Meryl Streep (Into the Woods) could get in, Amy Adams (Big Eyes) is always a possibility and Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) has a plum part — but really, who knows?
This possible opening has been recognized by the teams behind the two most serious best supporting actress contenders, Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) and Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything), both of which are now weighing whether or not it makes sense to give up a relatively sure-fire nom and possible win in the less prestigious of the two acting categories in order to vie for a nom in the other one. (Rounding out the field of potential supporting actress candidates is Keira Knightley for her turn in The Imitation Game.)
I mention all of this because it is in this larger context that Julianne Moore’s magnificent performance in Still Alice, an acquisition title that I saw today at its second screening at the ongoing Toronto International Film Festival, just landed.
Still Alice is an adaptation of Lisa Genova’s best-selling 2007 novel of the same title, written for the screen and directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland. The 53-year-old Moore plays a wife, mother and accomplished academic who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease and has to deal with that news and its implications for her and her family (played by Alec Baldwin, Kate Bosworth and Kristen Stewart, among others).
In any year, a nuanced and heartbreaking performance like this one, which features several show-stopping scenes and has left TIFF audiences in tears, would be a serious threat to land a best actress nomination. But in this year, I believe that should a competent distributor acquire this film and set a 2014 release date, Moore — one of the most liked and respected actresses of her generation, but a perennial Oscar bridesmaid (she’s 0-for-4 so far and deserved twice that number of noms) — would immediately become the favorite to win the best actress Oscar.
That would be poetic justice, since Moore reportedly won’t be getting an Oscar campaign, if even a Golden Globes campaign, for her other big 2014 performance: David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars, for which she was awarded this year’s best actress award at Cannes by that film’s U.S. distributor, Focus World.