Thursday, September 17, 2009

Julia ***1/2

Director: Erick Zonca
Cast: Tilda Swinton
Saul Rubinek, Kate del Castillo, Aidan Gould
Jude Ciccolella, Bruno Bichir, Kevin Kilner

"You're out of control, suicidal, blind, alcoholic..." says Mitch (Rubinek) to his best friend Julia (Swinton) after rescuing her from yet another night of passing out from drunkenness.
The difference is that this time she woke up next to him, someone she knows for a change and feels that he has violated their friendship.
She immediately assumes he has feelings for her, which he denies, instead replying with a tale of how he lost his wife and daughter to alcoholism.
Of course Julia has nothing and nobody to lose, after getting fired from her most recent job she receives the offer of her lifetime when her neighbor Elena (del Castillo) asks her to kidnap her son Tom (Gould).
The young boy is living with his rich grandfather who refuses to let her see him. Elena offers to pay her 50,000 dollars.
Julia accepts and after a while figures out that Elena might not even be needed for the plan, what if she handles the kidnapping by herself and gets more money from the grandfather?
This sets in motion the plot that will consequently include desert hideouts, helicopter chases and some scary Mexican gangsters.
Directed by Zonca with the visuals of a documentary and the guts of a thriller "Julia" stays grounded because of Swinton who gives one of her finest performances to date.
With flaming red hair and colorful, tight dresses that scream more than she does (think Julia Roberts in "Erin Brockovich" but with her boobs actually falling out once or twice) and a fastidious contempt towards everything, Swinton gives this woman a backstory we can grasp without need for anyone specifying it.
She's completely dislikable, that she agrees to kidnap isn't half as ruthless as the lies she tells the kid once she's accomplished her mission. She only exists for herself.
A, darkly, funny recurring joke in the movie is how she changes the ransom amount depending on who she's dealing with.
Swinton keeps a straight face all the time, not because she doesn't see how morbidly funny this is, but because that's Julia's m.o.
Interacting with Gould (who is fantastic for his age!) Swinton develops a materialistic, never maternal, instinct. She feeds him, but dopes his water with sleeping pills so he won't escape.
The fact that he's a child doesn't mean she will treat him any different than she would a grownup in the same situation. All she needs is for him to survive so she can make a living.
Which is why when the film comes to its finale, the redemption she receives is something that some people in the audience will be highly against.
Swinton makes us see that Julia wouldn't give a damn, and that's what makes her such a magnificent actress.

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