9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Being Julia, Being Brilliant,
This review is from: Being Julia [DVD]   (DVD)
Annette Bening really does light up the screen in 'Being Julia', which is about stage actress Julia Lambert and is set in 1938 London, in the glamourous yet somewhat pretentious world of the West End. Directed by Istvan Szabo, screenplay by Ronald Harwood (Academy Award winner for 'The Pianist'), the film is based on Sommerset Maugham's novel 'Theatre'.
Bening, who was nominated Best Actress for the Katherin Hepburn-like role, is joined by a brilliant supporting cast; very British, very good; we have Jeremy Irons playing Julia's husband, Michael Gambon as her former coach, Juliet Stevenson as her aide, Miriam Margolyes as the pushy co-owner of the theatre, and Julia's stage rival played by Lucy Punch, who you might recognise as Elaine from the Martin Clunes ITV comedy 'Doc Martin'.
The film starts with Julia Lambert bored with her current play and longing for excitement and change. Enter Tom Fennell, a young American who claims he is Julia's greatest fan. Finding his cute-boy appeal irresistible, she decides that romance is the best antidote to a mid-life crisis and embarks on a passionate affair. Her life becomes more daring and exciting and you watch as her on stage performances match the intensity of her affair. Until, that is, he falls in love with up-and-coming actress Avice Crichton, who is twenty years younger then Julia and who is to star alongside her in her new play. Critics are hailing in Avice Crichton as the "new Julia Lambert" but on opening night, Julia reveals that she is a more formidable actress than anyone ever imagined.
Ok, so it's true, Bening does steal the show (and she is gorgeous and hilarious while doing it) but the supporting cast is well-developed, particularly the characters of Julia's husband (Irons), who plays a strong part adding depth to the film, Julia's aide Evie (Stevenson), who gives a witty yet warm look at the relationship between mistress and servant, and Julia's stage rival Avice Crichton (Punch) who adds comedic value - giving quite a strong performance in the shadow of such stars. However, as you have probably noticed from my review, this film is very much focused on Julia and therefore if you don't like flamboyance, pomp and melodrama, this film probably isn't for you.
To sum up, 'Being Julia' isn't just a story about an actress on the stage, it's a story about an actress off the stage and in that sense it is very human; as we are shown the whirlwind world of behind the stage curtain, with the film posing the question, is everything in life acting; is life one big theatre? Watch 'Being Julia' and see for yourself!