BEING JULIA sparks the reminiscence of glorious old Hollywood days when larger-than-life characters often portrayed on the screen and be given serious considerations by putting them into, simply, good films. As the time progressed up to date where reality-look-alike has become increasingly boring, we turn ourselves to even greater contrast in those visual-effects driven films, and once in a while, a small film like Being Julia here is released to remind us how acting, a good one, defines the quality of a film in general and to the extent of lifting up the film from its fluffiness.
Take a look of the story. The aging diva Julia Lambert (Annette Bening in her performance of a lifetime) is at the brink of her downfall popularity, not even her husband who is also the theatre manager in which they formed together (played by Jeremy Irons who seems not being able to capture comic timings) could help her finding some excitement to satisfy her own self. Not until she encountered a dashing young American (Shaun Evans) when she embarked on an illicit affair, without her acknowledgement that she was being manipulated by him for his own agenda, i.e. providing a stepping stone for his girlfriend, a new starlet Avice Crichton (Lucy Punch). Or did she really not know?
Once she got to know the games played behind her back, then the real fun of the film begins.
The storyline may recall the similarity found in All About Eve, with a hint of playfulness a la Sunset Boulevard, and who can resist the combination of both? At times funny, nail-biting sharp bantering lines continues to march throughout the film, over-the-top gestures that provide comic elements, they are wrapped harmoniously under the direction of Istvan Szabo who certainly having a good time making this film. It may not be his best as that one is reserved for his glorious Sunshine, but to see the good elements of one enjoyable film are put nicely in such a watchable presentation that never falls out of the sync is an applaudable effort, isn’t it?
Moreover so with a grand presence of Annette Bening in the house.
In the tradition of films (seem to be) catered, crafted, designed and made to one particular actress playing the designated role of their careers, such as how All About Eve means Bette Davis, Sunset Boulevard refers to Gloria Swanson, Sophie’s Choice belongs to Meryl Streep, or recent examples would give Salma Hayek is destined to play Frida, so is Annette Bening who goes further in merely playing as Julia. Seeing this film from the very first minute to the end, we will be seeing Bening embodies and steps into her character so well that we begin to forget the presence of a certain often under-appreciated actress playing the role of her lifetime. Every lines shown in her face belong to Julia’s, so do the mimics, the gestures, the grandeur movements of hers that beyond the word believable. In other words that may seem to be overtly used for some meaningless promotional advertisements of bad films, yet you can rely on me this time, I proudly state that Annette Bening is Being Julia.
What a sweet revenge it is if she wins at the Academy Awards this time, for it means a tribute and a win to Davis, Swanson, and other grand actresses who never won playing roles they know better than anyone else: a diva.