Saturday, August 29, 2009

Julia: Grade B

Julia (2008)
Tilda Swinton, Kate del Castillo, Aidan Gould; Director Erick Zonca

This is Tilda Swinton’s well-deserved vehicle that proves what a stunningly good actor she is. She is mesmerizing; you can’t take your eyes off her even though her character is an unlikeable, acerbic drunk.

She kidnaps a boy (Gould) and negotiates the ransom, but the plan does not go as smoothly as she hoped. It takes two and a half hours (!) for no plot to develop. Where was the editor? It is easy to see where an hour could have been cut out. Instead of plot, there are arbitrary twists and turns, one damn thing after another, and maybe that idea was to parallel the character’s chaotic life, but it just made for a chaotic story line. Along the way, we see her develop a softer side as she forms a relationship with the boy, but she does not really undergo any great transformation, have an epiphany or learn any great lesson. So the movie is not strong as a character piece and is too drawn out to sustain dramatic tension as a thriller. But Swinton carries every scene with amazing intensity.

Photography is crisp, bright, and unobtrusive. Sets and costumes, in California and Tijuana, are excellent. Lighting is exceptionally good. For example after a drunken night, the harsh light of dawn, actual and psychological, is clearly shown. Directing is flawless. If only there had been an editor on hand! Maybe the filmmakers realized they had a gem of a performance from Swinton and were loathe to cut any of it. That’s understandable, but it was the wrong decision.

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