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Appellate Judge Amanda DeWees's Blog

Appellate Judge Amanda DeWees • Location: Athens, Georgia
• Member since: March 2004
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Being Julia, Being Misunderstood
April 11th, 2005 2:18PM

This weekend I rented Being Julia, which was not terribly bright since I had a busy weekend planned, but I managed to find time to watch it anyway. I only recently developed an interest in seeing this movie, since the title is so meaningless and the advertising art is so ill-judged: The photograph on the DVD cover makes it look like Annette Bening is missing half of her right arm, which made me think it was going to be one of those triumph-of-the-human-spirit dramas about a courageous woman overcoming her physical debility. No thanks. When I heard that it was actually a comedy with a revenge twist, however, my ears pricked up. And it turns out that she isnít missing any limbs; itís just a bad photo.

(Spoiler herein...) The movie turned out to be a good one, and quite fun, not least because of Michael Gambonís character and the performance by Lucy Punch, who was funny in Ella Enchanted and is even funnier here and in larger doses. And Juliaís revenge on the heartless young man who throws her over is beautifully appropriate and joyous. Thatís my kind of triumph of the human spirit.

But then I read Roger Ebertís review, which gets hold of the wrong end of the stick altogether. He claims itís a melodrama, whereas I saw it as comedy with some serious, but scarcely melodramatic, underpinnings. He further claims that itís a riff on All About Eve, which is utter hogwash. To boil things down to essences, and setting aside the total difference in tone, All About Eve is about an insecure aging actress being usurped by a cunning younger actress. We all know that. Being Julia, on the other hand, is about a self-confident but bored aging actress who falls in love with a young admirer, gets jilted, and avenges herself through the young actress he jilted her for. Hmm, a little different, no? Also, Ebert derides the final scene for lacking credibility, saying that the Lucy Punch character, Avice, isnít reacting as an actress would in real life to the improvisations of Julia. Again: hogwash. Iíve seen it many times, even done it myself when a fellow actor starts departing from the script during performance: freeze up, then desperately deliver the scripted lines in hopes that the other actor will find his way back to the script too. Itís the same thing that works to such great comedic effect when Nicolette Sheridan does it in Noises Off. Anyway, realism aside, Aviceís actions and reactions are totally in character for her.

All in all, Iím glad I rented Being Julia. First off, it was an enjoyable film to watch; but second, and hardly less important, it made me feel smarter than Roger Ebert--and thatís always satisfying. We have to take our triumphs of the human spirit where we find them.


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