Monday, May 4, 2009

Eric Zonca's nutty misfire, JULIA, features Tilda Swinton -- right, left and center

If you know me at all, you know I'm pro-immigration. Until today, that is -- when I began to question allowing certain foreign filmmakers access to the USA to make their movies. Back in 2003 Frenchman Bruno Dumont went to California's Twentynine Palms to make his abysmal two-hour movie of the same name, which proved that he had not a clue to what made human beings, much less Californians, tick. Now another Frenchman, director/co-writer Erick Zonca (The Dreamlife of Angels) has journeyed both to the USA and to Mexico to bring us JULIA, and in the process appears to have lost all sense of reality, not to mention moviemaking ability. As a Californian born and bred, I admit its denizens are often off the wall, but M. Zonca has made them seem so very loony that they don't even need that wall to bounce off. As for Mexico, it and its populace exist here for one purpose only: yes, kidnapping!

To imagine the "bizarrosity' that is Julia, think maybe Cassavetes' Gloria turned inside out, so that instead of having a gutsy granny protecting a cute kid, you have the glorious Tilda Swinton (and yes, she is glorious, even in a piece of turd material like this) kidnapping and nearly killing that cute kid. From simply bizarre (and incredibly noisy), the movie proceeds quickly to nitwit level, with plot contrivance, coincidence and convenience piling up so fast that any left-over logic soon flies out the window. From the looks of things, Zonca has little understanding of, or experience with, everything from law enforcement to the electricity available in vacant buildings, AA meetings, criminals, children or for that matter normal adults. The idiocy quotient here is staggering.

I am willing to cut the filmmaker some slack and say that he simply meant to create a wonderful "camp" classic. I would be lying, of course. But what else can one do? It really does seem, after a time, that Zonca and his co-writing crew became so entranced with their story that they just kept plowing onwards, no matter how crazy things got. Initially, the movie's cast appears unusual and enticing: Ms Swinton, Saul Rubinek and the great Kate del Castillo (shown above, right) from La Misma Luna and Trade. But the latter two actors are barely used, leaving Ms Swinton to do the heavy lifting. She is riveting, as usual, but finally to no avail. A movie like this, that attempts the melodramatic thriller/chase genre, is usually of short running-time. Certainly it does not go on for nearly two-and-one-half hours. Even then, instead of bringing his ridiculous plot to any kind of conclusion, the filmmaker just tosses in a ludicrous last line, as though this would somehow make everything all right.

Why didn't anyone connected with this train wreck speak up while there was still time?

Julia, distributed by Magnolia Pictures, opens in theatres on Friday, May 8.

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