Being Julia (5/10)

Copyright © 2004 by Tony Medley

Get Serious would be a better title for this movie. We are supposed to believe that a 40ish London diva circa 1938, acclaimed by all, could be easily seduced by a fuzzy-cheeked American hustler, Tom Fennel (Shaun Evans), fall madly in love with him, and that she could have a lifelong ďaffairĒ with another man yet not know heís homosexual. These are just two of the flimsy premises upon which this film (derived from a Somerset Maugham novella, Theatre) is based. Maugham was trying to give his audience an inside look at the workings of the theater. There are lines meant to be humorous based on that throughout the film.

And itís a pity, really, because Annette Bening, who plays Julia Lambert, gives a tour de force. She is every inch the pampered star. Which is what makes her infatuation with the juvenile Tom all the more incredible. Juliaís entire life is acting. She uses the same lines in conversations with different people. One never knows if her emotions are real or just part of her act. Making her affair with Tom even more inexplicable, there is absolutely no chemistry between the two. Whether this is bad acting or just something that is either there or it isnít, Iím not sure. Of what I am certain is that the relationship is beyond belief.

Counterbalancing Evansí unconvincing performance is Juliet Stevenson, who plays Juliaís dresser/confidante, Evie. She makes every scene in which she appears come alive.

Julia and her husband, Michael Gosselyn (Jeremy Irons) apparently have an understanding, so heís not upset that sheís gallivanting around town with other men. But when he is apparently scoring an ingťnue, Avice Chrichton (Lucy Punch), who is also making Tom happy between the sheets, Julia isnít as understanding as her husband, and sets about getting revenge.

Unfortunately, you could probably read Maughamís novella in less time that in takes to get through this film. Except for the final 15 minutes you wonder why youíre sitting there watching it. When Julia decides to get her revenge  the pace picks up and the film ends on a high point. Iím not sure itís worth sitting around.

Another problem was the attendees at my screening. I saw this at the Sony lot. Generally when you see a screening on a studio lot everyone else in the screening room are media, so itís a fairly professional atmosphere. At my screening, however, the room was populated by some guffawing imbeciles who laughed uproariously at lines that just werenít that funny. It seemed to me that they were laughing to tell everyone else in the audience that they understood the theater and got the joke. The problem is that it was so annoying Iím not sure that it didnít interfere with my enjoyment of the movie. Maybe it was better than I thought. But my companion at the screening agreed with me that it was long, boring, and the people laughing were fools.

September 10, 2004