Film-Forward Review: [BEING JULIA]

Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video

Annette Bening as Julia Lambert
Photo: Alex Dukay

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Directed by: István Szabó.
Produced by: Robert Lantos.
Written by: Ronald Harwood, based on the novel Theatre by W. Somerset Maugham.
Director of Photography: Lajos Koltai.
Edited by: Susan Shipton.
Music by: Mychael Danna.
Released by: Sony Pictures Classics.
Language: English.
Country of Origin: Canada/USA/Hungary/UK. 105 min. Rated: R.
With: Annette Bening, Jeremy Irons, Bruce Greenwood, Miriam Margolyes, Juliet Stevenson, Shaun Evans, Rosemary Harris & Rita Tushingham.
DVD Features: Commentary by Annette Bening, Jeremy Irons & István Szabó. Making-of featurette. Behind-the-scenes featurette. Deleted scenes.

Annette Bening is terrifically sublime as Julia Lambert, reigning theatrical diva of 1930’s London. She is at the pinnacle of her career, and she and her husband/producer Michael (Jeremy Irons) enjoy the comforts of their wealth, but Julia is oh, so bored. Her relationship with Michael is more like a friendship than a marriage, and she realizes she is reaching “a certain age” when woman are regrettably no longer considered beautiful.

Eager to take a holiday, Julia asks Michael to close their hit play at the end of the month. She quickly changes her tune, however, the moment Tom (Shaun Evans), a handsome young American gentleman, enters her life. Julia relishes the attention she receives from Tom, who declares himself her greatest fan. Even though he is barely older than her son, Julia can’t help but give in to temptation. Julia, swooning from their passionate affair, becomes as giddy as a schoolgirl.

As a result of this sexual rebirth, Bening truly begins to shine. Although it may seem like a cliché - older woman falls for younger man and is rejuvenated - Bening plays Julia with such a sense of vitality that each time the camera closes in on her face, she's mesmerizing. But after a once-enthralled Tom sets his sights on one of Julia’s houseguests, a young aspiring actress, Julia becomes a woman scorned. Using her new play as a weapon, she revises the script so that no one is left unscathed as she triumphs in her revenge. The bittersweet Being Julia is witty and wholly enjoyable. Tanya Chesterfield
October 14, 2004

DVD Extras: Since Being Julia is such an exceptional picture, it is a shame that its special features are short and unsatisfying. The behind-the-scenes chapter features comments from actors, the director and screenwriter, which give no fresh insight to the movie. The making-of featurette shows the production in action, but the director's comments to his cast and crew are inaudible over the movie’s soundtrack. The only explanation of what is going on is an occasional subtitle. The deleted scenes, however, are fascinating to see as Bening shines in them as she does in the movie. There are four scenes including a hilarious one where Julia is trying to pick up a man and another where she is sitting in the theater before her show opens. Accompanying the film is an uninteresting commentary by Bening, Irons and Szabó where such odds and ends are discussed as the lighting on the set and Irons’ unsatisfaction with his acting. Lauren Hines
April 20, 2005



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