best films: #23: BEING JULIA (2004)
It should come as no surprise to any reader of this blog that the delightfully catty theater comedy starring the effervescent and impeccable Annette Bening, Being Julia, has managed a Top 25 spot on my big 100 list of the best movies of all time. It’s devilishly witty, brilliantly scored to prestige goodness by Mychael Danna, and it’s jam-packed with supporting performances that truly showcase the talents of British character actors. The story – Julia Lambert, a British stage actress of a “certain age,” finds herself past her acting prime when her critical accolades begin to dwindle. But when an affair with a younger American man is just the youthful shot in the arm Julia needs to regain her stage confidence, her producer husband (played with typically droll flair by Jeremy Irons) drops the bomb that she’ll soon be sharing the stage with a younger, up-and-coming ingenue (played by the bizarrely captivating Lucy Punch). Vindictive and underhanded scheming ensues, and to genius effect. Ronald Harwood’s sumptuous script plays like a 21st Century All About Eve, to an arguably even more successful end. Bening is perfection as Lambert, in her easily best role – let’s not even talk about the fact that she lost the Oscar that year. With the extra touches in the form of Miriam Margolyes, Juliet Stevenson, and Michael Gambon as various Lambert sidekicks, the movie is a well-rounded period comedy with more pizzazz than you may suspect. It’s not all high-brow whimsy and stuffiness – Being Julia is full of gleeful revenge – a dish that hasn’t been served as coldly since the previous year’s Kill Bill (and something tells me even The Bride would be nervous around Ms. Lambert). Believe me – if for some reason you avoided seeing it (which is entirely possible considering its far-too-limited release in 2004) you absolutely need to see it. Don’t let the premise make you nervous – this movie will be impeccable to anyone who has a highly functioning funny bone.