Hairspary Hairspray

Screening Series
Being Julia
Annette Bening, Jeremy Irons, Michael Gambon, , ,
Genre: Drama
In Theaters: Oct 15th 2004

Review By:
Ray Dademo

Fordham University, Class of 2007

Favorite Quote:
"Hey, didn't I tell you to make 'horse durves'?" -- "I don't make nothin' out of horses, especially 'horse durves', 'cause I don't know what they are, and neither do you." -- "Bullets Over Broadway"

Being Julia

Review by: Ray Dademo

In his essay, "Essential Close-ups," director Istvan Szabo sets out to discover the one specific attribute that applies, explicitly to the art of filmmaking. Is there any novelty to films, or are they all just an assortment of other forms? As Szabo realizes, "the moving picture is capable of showing us a living human face in close up: this ability is the source of its special energy." His latest work, the 1930s period piece Being Julia, not only utilizes this thought, but grounds it as the film's foundation. What we are seeing is, in fact, one immense close-up of one immense character; a piece that relies entirely upon the charisma and articulacy of its leading lady. For a director like Szabo "the energy and strength of a feature film is supplied by the face of the actor or actress" -- and what a face he's chosen (but more on that, later).

Being Julia's central character, Julia Lambert, is an invention of W. Somerset Maugham, via his aptly named novella, Theatre. The reigning queen of London's West End, Julia is the sort of vainglorious stage actress who, as her own son puts it, "has a performance for everyone." She recycles old stage dialogue, sheds tears on cue, and encourages the advances of all her admirers (male and female; gay and lesbian). In the world Szabo, Maugham, and screenwriter Ronald Harwood have created for her, Julia is the mistress of all she surveys. Everyone she associates with -- men, women, co-stars, family -- seem completely captivated by her; not out of love, but worship. Julia requires her relations to build their lives around her, preserving her star spot, on and off-stage. Even her grown son (in a moment that is touching, bizarre, and completely appropriate) feels compelled to tell his mother that he's lost his virginity, just after it's happened. Despite her star status, Julia feels discontented, and -- as though she were a Mrs. Stone in need of a Roman Spring -- falls into the arms, and bed of Tom Fennel (Shaun Evans), an American who equates mattress-dancing with social-climbing. Soon, she finds herself completely seduced by the young charmer and enters into a May-December romance -- for once throwing caution to wind and opening herself to genuine emotion.

The discourse bears more than a passing resemblance to 1950's All About Eve, with the Tom Fennel character functioning as the male-version of Eve Harrington (Julia even has a Thelma Ritter-esque housekeeper played by Juliet Stevenson). Julia Lambert, like Bette Davis' Margo Channing, is a vulgarian masquerading her way through high society. She drinks heavily and, more tellingly, take sheer delight in making others uncomfortable. The strongest dissimilarity between the characters is a sexual one; Lambert is a great beauty and uses her feminine wiles as leverage. The result is Margo Channing, as played by Vivien Leigh -- a "rotten bitch" with more sexual

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Copyright © 2005 The Cinema Source