Down From the Shelf ~ Julia

The Facts:

Synopsis: At the behest of an old and dear friend, playwright Lillian Hellman undertakes a dangerous mission to smuggle funds into Nazi Germany.

Stars: Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave, Jason Robards

Director: Fred Zinnemann

Rated: PG

Running Length: 117 minutes

TMMM Score: (5/10)

Review:  My renewed interest in Jane Fonda and the need to see every performance that won an Oscar brought me to Julia.  Maybe it was my mood or maybe it was the movie itself, but I found it to be a very heavy-handed and uneven affair that I struggled with.  I mean, for a film with 11 Academy Award nominations and the winner of three I thought there would be more to it.  The film seemed to start and end with very little in between that I latched onto.

Robards and Redgrave both won Oscars for their work as Hammett and the titular Julia, respectively.  With all due respect to Robards and Redgrave 1978 was a pretty weak year for the supporting acting categories (I would have preferred Alec Guiness to win for Star Wars and Quinn Cummings to win for The Goodbye Girl) and their wins seemed to be more for the movie itself than anything else.  Annie Hall would sweep most of other categories it was nominated it, and deservedly so. 

The film seems quite reverential to Hellman’s relationship with the mysterious Julia but as a viewer I never understood what was so fascinating to Hellman.  It doesn’t help that the movie is filmed with that awful gauzy late 70’s camera lens and the Oscar winning script is performed in mostly hushed tones.  Look, I’m not saying that that talent wasn’t there.  All assembled had the brains and brawn to get an interesting, no, involving movie made but I don’t feel they were successful.  Redgrave’s win is the biggest mystery to me – the adult Julia she portrays has much less to do than the younger Julia who I found more appealing.  When she does appear on screen Redgrave seems detached…and I know that’s a character choice I simply don’t agree with.  Some may argue that Fonda was too big a star and too glam to play Hellman but I find that she strikes the right balance whether onscreen or in her voiceover narration.

I chalk this one up to my maybe not being ready to take this in at the time I saw it.  Movies that I have a strong aversion to on first viewing I usually will give another shot down the road a bit.  There is a possibility that I need time to process the first viewing so I am prepared the next go around.  Time will tell.

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