Annette Bening's outstanding performance is the best reason to see Being Julia
, a highly melodramatic adaptation of the 1937 novel Theatre
by W. Somerset Maugham. With a prestigious pedigree (director Istvan Szabo and screenwriter Ronald Harwood share impressive theatrical backgrounds) and a stellar cast including Jeremy Irons, Bruce Greenwood, and Juliet Stevenson, the film's backstage and onstage theatrics take place in pre-World War II London, when the venerable actress Julia (Bening) fends off middle-age by romancing a stage-struck young American (Shaun Evans) in a calculated attempt to retain some youthful vitality while airing her own dirty laundry onstage in a glorious act of divine diva behavior. Treating life and theater as one big play in which she's the perpetual star, Julia's nothing if not a master thespian, and Bening's got all the chops to keep her in the spotlight. If the film isn't quite worthy of Bening's excellence, at least it gives her performance the showcase it deserves. -- Jeff Shannon
Romantic comedy set in the world of the London stage in the late 1930s. Annette Bening stars as the beautiful and beguiling actress Julia Lambert. She is at her peak, physically and professionally, but her successful theatrical career and her marriage to handsome impresario Michael Gosselyn (Jeremy Irons) have become stale and unfulfilling. Enter Tom Fennell (Shaun Evans), a younger man who claims to be Julia's greatest fan. Finding his ardor irresistible, she decides that romance is the best antidote to a mid-life crisis and embarks on a passionate affair. Life becomes more daring and exciting, until Julia's young lover callously tries to relegate her to a supporting role. But on opening night, Julia reveals that she is a more formidable actress than anyone ever imagined.