Take a Drink: whenever Swinton goes overboard
Take a Drink: whenever she wakes up from a hookup
Take a Drink: whenever Kate Del Castillo sounds just beyond crazy
Take a Drink: for every betrayal or double cross
Do a Shot: Pants Off Dance Off!
Do a Shot: “Kiss my butt, you idiot!”
By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
2014 has been a banner year for Tilda Swinton, from putting her ethereal, androgynous beauty to perfectly fitting use as a vampire in Only Lovers Left Alive to scene highway-robbery in Snowpiercer and The Grand Budapest Hotel. 2008 was another good year- Burn After Reading, reprising her Narnian White Witch in Prince Caspian, and delivering another great supporting turn in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Oh, and Julia.
Okay, every year’s a good Tilda Swinton year.
In Julia, she plays an alcoholic fuckup who sees an opportunity when a fellow AA member (Kate Del Castillo) asks her to help kidnap her son (Aidan Gould) back from his grandfather who’s taking care of him. Julia sees an opportunity for a more profitable double-cross- kidnap the kid herself and hold him for ransom from the rich old man. Oh, did I mention she’s a fuckup? Yeah, things don’t go entirely according to plan.
Julia is a bit of an odd beast, a French production written and directed by Erick Zonca, but set in the U.S. and Mexico and starring native actors. As such, Julia has a very European style and rhythm, but a pulpy American-style premise. Think a Coens Brothers movie by way of Guillame Canet or… Erick Zonca (The Dreamlife of Angels), I guess.
Yeah, this is where the obligatory Jerry Lewis joke goes.
While the story is full of kidnappings, cartels, and gunplay, at its heart Julia is a character-piece. Zonca’s slower, more contemplative pace allows us to really get beneath the skin of Tilda Swinton’s performance, and it’s a performance unlike any other she’s done. She’s no Ice Queen or ethereal androgynous beauty here- she’s a profane, grungy, irascible, unfiltered, and fairly incompetent, from which a lot of the film’s dark humor springs. Saul Rubinek, playing her AA sponsor, also gets to steal a few scenes, both humorous and dramatic, but the film really perks up when Gould shows up.
Wait… is that the kid from Modern Family?
Nope, but this kid is just as hilarious. The way he delivers lines like “Kiss my butt, you idiot” with the same level of vitriol that Samuel L. Jackson directs towards snakes on his plane won me over completely. Child actors are usually successful if they don’t bring a production down, but Gould elevates Julia right when it’s starting to stagnate a bit. The second half of the film, as the stakes rise and Julia undergoes a predictable but hard-won character, is simply excellent, right up to its nail-biting conclusion.
The first half sure does drag, though. There’s no earthly reason for this film to be two and a half hours long, and if the film hadn’t picked up the pace considerably once Julia and lil’ Tom get to Mexico, this would’v e been a four or five beer film. Also, Kate Del Castillo is just too damn much. She seems to think an alcoholic and a Dave Chappelle-style crack addict are one and the same. Just awful.
Her expression literally every second she’s on screen.
Julia takes awhile to really get moving, but once it does you’ll be glad you went along for the ride. It’s a brash, funny, and riveting character drama with another fine central performance from Tilda Swinton.