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Being Julia (12A)

Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: One

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Director and cast commentary. Deleted scenes. Behind the scenes. Making of.

ON PAPER, it must have appeared like a dream part for Annette Bening, given how difficult it is for good actresses to find quality roles at the moment.

Yet, in practice, Being Julia proves to be unworthy of her talents; a frightfully tedious affair that is populated by too many egotistical characters and a curious lack of pacing.

The film has been adapted by Academy Award winner, Ronald Harwood (of The Pianist fame), from W Somerset Maugham's acclaimed Theatre, and takes place in London during 1938, as celebrated actress, Julia Lambert (Bening) is at the peak of her form.

Far from being satisfied, however, Lambert finds herself at the point of exhaustion and unfulfilled professionally and personally.

Stuck in a loveless marriage with her impresario husband, Michael Gosselyn (Jeremy Irons), she yearns for some excitement, which comes in the form of young American student, Tom Fennell (Shaun Evans), who claims to be her greatest fan.

Finding romance to be the best antidote to her impending mid-life crisis, Julia embarks on an affair with Tom, only to find herself gradually being reduced to a supporting role in his affections.

With a new play on the horizon, however, Julia plots her revenge and slowly begins to turn the tables on everyone who thinks she is approaching the end of her career, or using her to walk in higher circles.

The ensuing production provides her with her finest performance, while also serving notice on the people who sought to write her off.

As intriguing as the premise sounds, however, the film never really finds its stride, largely because director, István Szabó, fails to provide anyone worth sympathising with.

Julia, for all her suffering, is as self-obsessed and infuriating as many of the people around her, while her struggle to find her own identity isn't really convincing.

Such issues are explored far better in The Life and Death of Peter Sellers and Beyond The Sea, yet here seem like a bit of an after-thought to justify Julia's wayward attitude.

The presence of Michael Gambon, as a former mentor-now-deceased, merely confuses the issue, and lacks any explanation as to why his tutoring proved so important.

While Julia's relationship with her son is poorly handled, especially since she goes from being a confidante to the worst mother in the world in the space of two scenes.

The conclusion of the film, in which Julia gets her revenge, does offer some excitement, and a fitting stage for Bening to showboat, but by then it's too late, as viewers will probably have lost interest.

Had Szabó injected a little more heart into proceedings, and a little less luvv-iness, the film might feel more worthwhile, but as it stands the final curtain can't come down on Being Julia quickly enough.



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