Annette Bening can act — watch American Beauty or Bugsy or The Grifters — but she works too hard to prove it in Being Julia. As Julia Lambert, an aging diva of the London stage circa 1938, Bening pulls out all the stops — Brit accent included — in a role that damn near screams, "Oscar, look at me!" That's the problem. It's hard to care much for a woman who is cheated on by her husband (Jeremy Irons), her lover (Bruce Greenwood) and a twentysomething American (Shaun Evans), whom she makes the mistake of falling in love with for real. Or at least the script — adapted by Ronald Harwood (The Pianist) from W. Somerset Maugham's 1937 novel Theatre — wants us to believe it's for real. But Hungarian director Istvan Szabo (Sunshine) overplays his hand and traps Bening in a role that's all emoting, no emotion.
From The Archives Issue 330: November 13, 1980