Straight-laced Rose breaks off relations with her party girl sister, Maggie, over an indiscretion involving Rose's boyfriend. The chilly atmosphere is broken with the arrival of Ella, the grandmother neither sister knew existed.
Tale of amorous folly and revenge set in the world of the London stage in the late 1930's. Reigning diva Julia Lambert's success and fame grow suddenly wearisome. She falls head over heels for a young American, Tom, and begins a passionate May - December affair. When she realizes that Tom is just a young social climber whose real passion is ambitious young starlet Avice Crichton, Julia begins to plot a delightful revenge. Written by
Sujit R. Varma
I am not a fan of Annette Benning by any stretch of the imagination. I thought she was far too old to play the schoolgirlish ingenue in "An American President", and found her lacking in warmth and charisma as the love interest in "Open Range". I thought she was okay for what she had to do in "Dick Tracy", and honestly can't remember her performance in "American Beauty".
In "Being Julia", however, Benning's performance thoroughly does justice to her larger-than-life character. Benning plays 1930s stage actress Julia Lambert. Julia is by turns melodramatic, egocentric, overbearing and overwrought. She roars into our consciousness from her first scene to her final curtain.
Benning is surrounded by a fine cast of actors and actresses who act as perfect foils for her. Jeremy Irons, especially, is subtle and subdued as her manager husband, Michael Gosselyn. Juliet Stevenson is a sly confederate as Julia's dresser Evie. Miriam Margolyes is a hoot as theatre owner Dolly. Shaun Evans is a feast for the eyes as Tom Fennell, the young cad who breaks Julia's heart. Michael Gambon rounds out the cast as Jimmy Langton, a ghostly mentor to the very much alive and lively Julia.
Julia is not exactly what you would call an admirable human being. She is self-centered, bitchy, catty and vengeful. But, as the Italians say, "revenge is a dish best eaten cold". The film keeps us in suspense as we nervously wait for the other shoe to drop, for Julia to execute her carefully plotted revenge. When she springs her trap, we may shake our heads disapprovingly, but we cannot suppress a hearty laugh.
By its very nature, "Being Julia" is a film that will not appeal to a young demographic. You have to be a certain age to appreciate Julia's predicament of growing old and feeling that life and love have passed her by. Benning bravely allows director Istvan Szabo to film her in merciless and unforgiving closeup, to capture the lines etched in her brow, around her mouth and at her neckline. But the film leaves us with a sense of hope that, like Julia, we may all age like fine wine -- or like the beer whose creamy foam Julia relishes like her life itself: without the slightest trace of sadness or regret.
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