Thursday, October 29, 2009

Movie Review: Julia

Julia *** ½
Directed By:
Erick Zonca.
Written By: Erick Zonca & Aude Py & Camille Nata & Michael Collins.
Starring: Tilda Swinton (Julia), Saul Rubinek (Mitch), Kate del Castillo (Elena), Aidan Gould (Tom), Jude Ciccolella (Nick), Bruno Bichir (Diego), Horacio Garcia Rojas (Santos), Kevin Kilner (Johnny).

Julia (Tilda Swinton) is one of those party girls way past their prime. She still goes out almost every night and gets drunk and ends up waking up next to some strange guy the next morning, even though she is well into her 40s. She cannot hold onto a job, cannot hold onto to any real friends, and she drinks every day. She cannot stop herself at one drink. Several times over the course of the film we see her start on that one drink, and then flash forward to the next morning. The middle part is always the same.

The only person who hasn’t abandoned Julia yet is Mitch (Saul Rubinek), and that’s because he has been where she was in the past. But even he is getting ready to abandon her if she doesn’t start going to meetings. It is at one of these meetings that Julia meets Elena (Kate del Castillo) for the first time. Elena recognizes Julia because she lives across the street from her. Elena tells Julia about her son Tom (Aidan Gould), who was taken away from her by her father in law after her husband’s death. That was five years ago, Tom is now eight, and Elena hasn’t seen him since. She convinces Julia to help kidnap her son, and promises a big payday. Things don’t go as planned, and Julia ends up on the run with Tom in tow.

Tilda Swinton gives one of those fearless performances as Julia that we rarely see in a movie. She is not a sympathetic character at all. We almost immediately dislike her when we meet her, as she is one of those sloppy drunks, who doesn’t understand the concept of personal space, and doesn’t get the fact that she is annoying everyone around her. She is the most self involved person I can recall seeing in a movie – everything filters through her perception of herself as a victim of everyone else, when in fact, she brings all the shit down on herself. As the movie progresses, she doesn’t really change all that much. She lashes out at Mitch, at Elena, and eventually at Tom, who is just acting like any kid would. She drugs me and ties him up repeatedly, every time telling him that this “is the last time, I promise”, and cannot believe it when he eventually stops trusting her. She has probably made the “the last time” promise before with her drinking, and she means it every time. The movie requires Swinton to hit a lot of different notes, and she does so perfectly. At the heart of every scene in the film, Swinton carries it effortlessly.

The movie itself is not quite as good as Swinton is. It meanders a little bit at times, and contains a few too many twists and turns (the last one, where Julia learns something is not really believable). In addition, the director of the film, Erick Zonca, from France, gives the movie perhaps too much of a European flavor. For a movie that it set in California and Mexico, the movie never really feels like it is taking place there.

But those are minor problems. Overall, Julia is well made, well written and because of Swinton’s masterful performance, well acted. This is Swinton’s best performance to date, and considering what she has done in the past, that is saying something. It’s too bad that hardly anyone has seen the film – if they had, Swinton would be a guaranteed Oscar nominee this year.

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