Jamie Kennedy's favorite movie review site
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

Awesome: 2.94%
Worth A Look50%
Just Average: 38.24%
Pretty Crappy: 8.82%
Sucks: 0%

4 reviews, 10 user ratings

Latest Reviews

Luxor by Peter Sobczynski

Wander by Peter Sobczynski

Love, Weddings & Other Disasters by Peter Sobczynski

Black Bear by Peter Sobczynski

Poison Rose, The by Jack Sommersby

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom by Jay Seaver

Fat Man and Little Boy by Jack Sommersby

Harry & Son by Jack Sommersby

Shattered by Jack Sommersby

Deathstalker II by Jack Sommersby

subscribe to this feed

Being Julia
[AllPosters.com] Buy posters from this movie
by Robert Flaxman

"How Julia got her groove back."
3 stars

Films that center themselves on unpleasant characters are frequently doomed right from the start. How can an audience bring themselves to care about a transparently unlikable protagonist? Sometimes this problem is mitigated because the protagonist is a fascinating character despite his or her obvious problems – think, for example, Nixon. It’s different – and much harder to work with – when the character in question is fictional, however. Such a problem renders Being Julia nearly unwatchable for its first half, at which point Annette Bening’s talent takes over the film and forces it to a shockingly satisfying conclusion.

Perhaps the biggest problem with the film is its odd plot, which lurches awkwardly between its two halves. In the first half, Julia Lambert (Bening) is a forty-something actress experiencing burnout. Her marriage to buttoned-up money-man Michael (a superbly dry Jeremy Irons) seems to exist mostly to help her professionally, and she wants to take a vacation. Things change with the arrival of a young American, Tom Fennel (Shaun Evans), who professes to idolize Julia but seems more interested in getting her to sleep with him. That she is desired by a much younger man, and her subsequent affair with him, reinvigorates Julia, but after a while it appears that he was using Julia, buttering her up to gain a role in her new play for his actual interest, a young actress named Avice Crichton (Lucy Punch).

This first part of Being Julia is exceedingly problematic. The film apparently intends to display how Julia is always acting, how she has buried and refuses to let out all her real emotions, thus making their appearance in the later part of the film an important turning point and catharsis for the character. It does this relatively well (as Julia gives a tearful speech to one of her backers, her assistant sardonically mouths the words along with her), but the film also apparently intends to contrast Julia with Tom. The suggestion is that Tom is unable to mask his feelings at all under acting, something Julia actually comments on at one point. However, this turns out not to be the case, making the suggestion confusing. What’s more, Evans’ acting is rather bad, coming across as grating whenever he is called upon to present an emotion. Presumably this is at least partially intentional, to give the idea that Tom is bad at hiding his feelings behind acting. But the fact is that he does succeed in tricking Julia, which makes the whole gimmick unnecessary – and a gimmick this hard to watch needs to be necessary.

Julia proceeds to find out that not only is Tom sleeping with Avice, so is Michael – and this causes her to lose it and begin working on her plan to exact revenge. It’s a little hard to forgive Julia’s hypocrisy until we realize that she isn’t mad at Michael for cheating on her, she’s mad at Avice for (seemingly) stealing both her men. This motivation leads Julia to a hilariously executed stage performance in which she humiliates her rival, thus proving that she is capable of harnessing emotions rather than faking them and that she is still the finest actress in town. Despite the fact that Julia never really becomes a likable character, the perfectly-executed humor of the film’s final act goes a long way toward salvaging what was previously a frequently tedious and unpleasant affair.

A lot of this is attributable to Bening. I don’t know if she was Oscar-worthy, but she does a good job capturing her character’s drama queen nature – any time she presents an emotion, the audience is forced to decide whether it believes her or not. The gusto with which she dismantles Avice onstage at the end of the film is well-played; it is Bening’s work that keeps Julia from ever becoming truly unlikable, despite the fact that it is rarely easy to sympathize with her either. Irons helps the proceedings as well, delivering one of the funniest dry-British-gentleman performances since Daniel Day-Lewis in A Room with a View two decades ago. (Those who caught his “I hope they missed” ad-lib at the Oscars will know how well he can pull off a character like this.)

Still, it’s impossible to entirely forgive a film for its problems just because it pulls together in time and manages to do it so well – almost impossibly well considering how dreary the first half is. Perhaps if the first hour were funnier, or more cohesive with the second half, or if there weren’t an odd subplot with Bruce Greenwood that doesn’t especially go anywhere, Being Julia as a whole would be better. Instead, it has to hope our attention is held just long enough to get to its better half.

Julia Lambert may not be all that likable, but she and her world are funny enough to carry a film. If only Being Julia had let itself cut loose a little sooner, it might actually have been able to benefit from that before it was too late.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=10444&reviewer=385
originally posted: 03/16/05 18:37:46
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Chicago Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Starz Denver Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Toronto Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Boston Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Boston Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/24/13 Joe Smaltz Charming. Jullette is aging well, ideal for a cougher role 5 stars
12/18/06 William Goss Bening casually commands on-/off-stage drama. 4 stars
10/05/05 Ava Rice Well-acted but sour and uninteresting story. 2 stars
7/30/05 PRE Charming. Pre-war joie de vivre and a small drama. A little gem. 4 stars
6/13/05 PLR Too trivial and what about unexplained barkers playing to the theater goers. 2 stars
5/30/05 MLW Julia's revenge is indeed funny but it is to damn trivial that who really gives a damn. 3 stars
3/19/05 Mark McLeod strong performance from benning but not award calibre 2 stars
3/04/05 Gloria Anderson annette is awfully good in this 4 stars
2/05/05 dbx annette is great; consistently entertaining film, more than I can say about most films now 4 stars
9/20/04 Margo charming,see this with your mother 4 stars
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum

  15-Oct-2004 (R)
  DVD: 22-Mar-2005



Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 
Privacy Policy | | HBS Inc. |   
All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast