27 April 2004 | mrcaw1
Fonda, Redgrave, Streep!
Julia (1977) Starring Jane Fonda as playwright Lillian Hellman and Vanessa Redgrave (controversially winning a Best Supporting Actress Oscar) as a longtime childhood friend. Meryl makes the most of her miniscule part as an upper-class snob acquaintance of Ms. Fonda's. Basically it's a story of a friendship. Redgrave's character, born into privilege, becomes part of the Resistance movement in World War II torn Europe while Fonda fights her own political battles in America while becoming a famous playwright.
The story focuses on an episode near the end of the friends' lives, when Fonda goes to Europe to visit Redgrave, now completely consumed in underground resistance activities and (summoning up bravery of her own) smuggles in money to support the underground movement.
The movie succeeds on several levels. The cinematography, though shot in color, successfully evokes a world of muddied browns, shadows and murkiness. The screenplay, based on Hellman's own memoir is translated well, capitalizing on Hellman's unique talent for imbuing simple moments with heroic significance. The personal drama of the friendship is heightened against the intrigue and always threatening possibilities of war.
Julia provides a rare opportunity to see two female characters conducting their lives not as appendages of men, but as independent protagonists. Furthermore, social relationships, both on a personal and political level, are presented, for a change, from a woman's point of view. Though not a Streep showcase, it is a compelling movie that will haunt you.