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"Being Julia"

Directed by István Szabó.
Written by Ronald Harwood.  Based on a novella by W. Somerset Maugham.
Starring Annette Bening, Jeremy Irons, Shaun Evans and Bruce Greenwood.
Release Year:  2004
Review Date:  2/1/05


As I continue to try and work through Oscar-nominated films, I had to catch the Annette Bening drama "Being Julia", a film for which I literally saw no preview or reviews.  Amazing that a film starring Bening and Jeremy Irons would fly completely under my radar...of course, by not seeing as many smaller films and indies in 2004, I guess that can happen!

But, since the Oscar nomination got me into the theater, I'm happy to report the movie was pretty good to boot.  In 1830s London, a superstar actress named Julia Lambert (Bening) is currently starring in "Farewell, My Love" but is nearing the burnout phase of this show's run.  She is exhausted on the stage, and off it, she seems to be dealing with the stress that any diva has to address:  adoring fans, a physically-absent love life, few close friends.  (How do they do it???)  Married to fellow actor and stage director Michael Gosselyn (Irons), they have one of those "open" relationships that allows for them to be off on their own for long stretches of time, and during one of these nightly breaks from each other Julia meets Tom (Shaun Evans), an American visiting London to soak up the theater scene and, ahem, do some soaking for Julia as well!  Romance, drama, break-ups and reunions, blah blah blah.

I was fearful that "Being Julia" would be one of those films where the lead actor/actress gets nominated but the film itself would be dogshit; thankfully, the film is an entertaining look at what it might be like to be a great performer that doesn't know when to hit the off button when off the stage.  Bening is as advertised, although I didn't think she was Oscar-nominee material...that's why I don't get to vote but trained professionals do.  But, she vamps it up where appropriate, turning even a request for more coffee into an amped-up tirade.  I thought that Irons was passable, but that Evans was worthless as the loverboy.  Some of his scenes were so hammy I half-expected Al Pacino to come waltzing onto the screen, chewin' on a hambone.

Parts of the Tom/Julia romance just feel forced and flat-out fake.  But, anytime that twosome is offscreen, "Being Julia" was a fun ride.  Loved the ending, loved Bruce Greenwood, loved Irons, loved Michael Gambon as Julia's dead mentor.  Thanks to a mix of dramatic elements and stage production sequences, the film is entertaining to keep up with.  Too bad about that forced romantic angle!

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09