Friday, July 20, 2007

Being Julia

Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Aging Stage Actress Takes Younger Lover in Brit Costume Drama

Set in London in 1938, Being Julia is a multi-layered costume drama revolving around an aging stage actress who, at the height of her career, takes refuge from her stale marriage in an illicit affair with a fan half her age. Annette Bening stars in the title role opposite Shaun Evans as Tom Fennell, her ardent American admirer.
This beguiling, sinuously-building picture is based on Theatre, a novella by W. Somerset Maugham and was directed by Hungarian Istvan Szabo whose Mephisto landed the Best Foreign Film Oscar back in 1982. And its enveloping script was adapted by another Academy Award-winner Ronald Harwood, who was responsible for The Pianist.
Though Being Julia's has been tweaked to leave its heroine more embittered than exultant, the tale is otherwise intact. At the point of departure we find Julia jaded and resentful of her impressario husband, Michael (Jeremy Irons), who sees his wife as more of a meal ticket than a mate.
To maximize profits, he's callously booked her into a grueling routine, a demanding play which calls for seven performances a week. So, all it takes is the overtures of a hunk in heat to turn the 45 year-old diva into a flattered, irresponsible philanderer.
Although she showers Shaun with baubles and bucks, this impulsive behavior fails to prevent her ungrateful boy toy from two-timing her with another actress, Avice (Lucy Punch), the up-and-coming blonde-of-the-moment. To add insult to injury, this already incestuous arrangement gets even messier when her producer hubby invites the ingenue to the casting couch.
Ultimately, Julia’s only recourse is to square the score with Avice on stage, all adroitly executed by Ms. Bening with a flourish which the Academy ought remember come Oscar season.

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for sexuality.
Running time: 108 minutesDistributor: Sony Pictures Classics

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