Being Julia István Szabó

Annette Bening's title role in Being Julia as an aging British actress was supposed to have won her an Oscar. But it didn't and now, out from under the award season microscope, we can see that her performance was mostly grandstanding. Perhaps Bening was cast because she is one of the very few ladies of Hollywood who hasn't had multiple rounds of plastic surgery. (Kudos to her for that at least.) Based on the W. Somerset Maugham novel Theatre, director István Szabó (Sunshine) does an acceptable job of depicting the theatre world's underbelly but isn't as successful in centring on a main character whose whole life is an act. Julia Lambert (Bening) is a full-on stage diva, circa 1938. Even though her crow's feet are showing, she's still the toast of the town, but she's bored with her success and loveless marriage to husband Michael (Jeremy Irons). Tom (Shaun Evans), a young star-struck American cad, seduces Julia into an affair. Upon discovering that both Tom and her ingénue cast mate are using her to get ahead, Julia exacts revenge in the most theatrical way possible. Not knowing whether to be a comedy or soap opera, Being Julia almost falls apart, but the young cast members are strong, especially Tom Sturridge as Julia's son. Considering the grandeur of the costumes, sets and gorgeous locations, the DVD features could have been interesting but are instead dreadfully dull or worse. In particular, the commentary track by Szabó, Bening and Irons is a complete waste of time for anyone looking for insight rather than blithering on about the difference between stage and film acting. Worthy of making it onto the cutting room floor of Inside The Actor's Studio, the trio don't even mention Maugham until the credits roll. Plus: deleted scenes, "behind the scenes" featurette. (Alliance Atlantis)