Annette Bening delivers one of her finest performances to date, but is it enough to top Hilary Swank in this Sunday's Academy Awards? Bening stars as an illustrious stage actress by the name of Julia Lambert who falls in love with a younger man in the moderately funny and always entertaining "Being Julia."
Julia and her husband Michael (Jeremy Irons) have always had a non-possessive marriage, but Julia is bored and depressed with her life. Unable to distinguish between who she really is and the characters she plays, she soon finds joy in a much younger man named Tom (Shaun Evans). Their affair invigorates her acting and all parts of her life, but when he in turn betrays her for a younger actress, Julia's true selfishness, and acting talent, is brought to a pleasantly vindictive light.
Much like the title, "Being Julia" is and always has been about its star, Annette Bening. I was very surprised to find her a front runner in the Oscar race since "Being Julia" has basically shot under the radar without very much attention given to it whatsoever. The movie is good, but Bening is great, reveling in her selfishly amusing character who always gets the last laugh and who is and always will be an artificial creature of the stage. That being said, the role is more comedic than anything else; compared to Swank, I can't see how Bening deserves to win. Bening is great here, but Swank was outstanding in "Million Dollar Baby."
Aside from the acting, which also features an entertaining performance from Irons, "Being Julia" is a pleasant surprise. I was expecting a very boring period piece, but instead the movie is amusing, entertaining and oftentimes funny. The dialogue is very well-written and the characters likable, even when in essence they are anything but. Even Bening's character has little redeeming value, yet the screenplay is so skillfully written she allows the audience to take joy in her backhanded revenge.
The movie does suffer in parts, especially in the twenty minutes leading up to the final scene. The movie is less than two hours long, but it felt much longer near the end as the screenplay slowly and secretly builds up to the climax.
That being said, the slow parts are worth the wait because "Being Julia" ends with a bang. The ending is absolutely fantastic.
"Being Julia" is a fun little movie with great performances and a memorable ending. It doesn't always work and Bening may not be the most deserving come Oscar time, but "Being Julia" is well worth some attention.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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