An intoxicating combination of wicked comedy and smart drama, Being Julia produced by Robert Lantos and directed by Istvan Szabo tells the story of a great actress who, at an important crossroads in her life, must figure out her role, both onstage and off. In London in 1938, beautiful and beguiling Julia Lambert (Annette Bening) is at her peak, physically and professionally. But her successful theatrical career and her marriage to handsome impresario Michael Gosselyn (Jeremy Irons) have become stale and unfulfilling. She longs for novelty, excitement, sparks. Enter Tom Fennell (Shaun Evans), a younger man who claims to be Julia’s greatest fan. Finding his ardor irresistible, she decides that romance is the best antidote to a mid-life crisis and embarks on a passionate affair. Life becomes more daring and exciting, until Julia’s young lover callously tries to relegate her to a supporting role. Summoning all of her considerable powers, Julia masterminds a brilliant revenge that places her exactly where she belongs, center stage and in the spotlight.
In 1938, Julia Lambert (Annette Bening) is a beautiful and talented actress in her forties who rules London’s West End. Her plays, love stories and sparkling social comedies, are great successes, making Julia one of the most beloved actresses of her time. Her husband, former actor Michael Gosselyn (Jeremy Irons) is a brilliant theatrical producer who masterminds her career. Julia seems to be one of those lucky women who has everything — wealth, talent, and celebrity. But in the theater, as in life, appearances are almost always deceiving.
Julia is approaching a delicate time in her life. She is at her peak, physically and professionally, but she is smart enough to know that she is rapidly becoming a ‘woman of a certain age.’ In very little time, the roles she is used to playing — on stage and off – will change. Romantic leads will give way to supporting parts as, inevitably, Julia’s youth and celebrity fade. Her long-standing marriage is more platonic – and ironic — than romantic. And her seventeen-year-old son is on his way to becoming an adult, just another reminder that her best years may be behind her.
While she is contemplating her destiny, a new man enters her life. Tom Fennell (Shaun Evans) is a handsome and charming young American who introduces himself as Julia’s greatest fan. Even though he is half her age, he finds Julia to be his ideal woman and woos her with a refreshing ardor that cannot be denied. Julia surrenders to his attentions and finds herself unexpectedly in the throes of a passionate love affair, one that makes her feel more beautiful and vital every day. She is so happy that she does not see the obvious: her romance is doomed from the start.
Tom is, after all, a youth, and a surprisingly callow youth. After sweeping Julia off her feet and enjoying her money and her social connections, he turns his attentions to a younger woman — an aspiring actress Avice Crichton (Lucy Punch)– and actually asks Julia to help launch her rival’s career. With uncharacteristic humility and selflessness, Julia agrees, showcasing the ingénue in her new play. Throughout rehearsals, Julia seems to be setting the stage for her own retirement, deferring to the younger actress at every turn.
But on opening night, Julia reveals that she is a more formidable actress than anyone — lover, family, friends, and critics — ever imagined. The part of the fading actress has been her greatest role. When she steps onto the stage and delivers a surprise performance that reduces her rival to tears, Julia establishes that she is in control of her career, and of her life. More beautiful, more compelling, and more fulfilled than ever, she is ready to accept, enjoy, and celebrate her new-found maturity.“Essential Close-ups” by Istvan Szabo There was a time when I was trying to work out whether feature films had some attribute that no other form of art was able to provide. Does the moving picture give us something original, something that endows it with a singular quality? Or is film only a mixture of other art froms, making use of their values? Finally I realised that film does have one singular quality that no other art form can supply. The moving picture is capable of showing us a living human face in close up: this ability is the source of its special energy. Film is capable of showing the birth of an emotion or a thought and its changing - mirrored in the expression. One can only show the changing of the human face through moving pictures: how love turns into jealousy, how a newly born thought is mirrored in the eyes. Only the moving picture can show life's beautiful changes, the constant movements of the human expression in the most intimate moment, in the moment of its birth.