Friday, Dec. 17, 2004

(Worst) Being Julia

Critics routinely overrate movies that are indifferent examples of endangered genres that the critics loved when they were kids. The sophisticated theater comedy, for example. Somerset Maugham's novel Theatre is the source for Istvan Szabo's rollicking relic, with Annette Bening as a slightly aging actress who falls for the attentions of a young conniver, then plots her revenge. As a registered FOOF (Friend Of Old Films), I'm supposed to love antiques like this, but its snooty airs and cloistered airlessness drove me nuts. It's bad enough that Bening — who'll get an Oscar nomination — practically pops a vein in her strain to attain diva status, and that she is photographed so cruelly, she could sue the cinematographer. It's worse that I can't think of a current 40ish actress who would be guaranteed to breathe life into this specter. Are there no smart enchantresses of an age between Cate Blanchett (35) and Meryl Streep (55)?