Based on a novella entitled "Theater" by W. Somerset Maugham, "Being Julia" stars Annette Bening as 30's theater star Julia Lambert, a diva-ish actress that is married to Michael Gosselyn (Jeremy Irons) and has been getting parts that are meant for women younger. However, her marriage has begun to fade as of late, and the parts are suddenly starting to slip towards some up-and-commers that are looking to be the next Julia Lambert. The current Julia, however, isn't ready to call it quits.
She embarks on an affair with a young American, Tom Fennel (Shaun Evans), who has smarts regarding the theater business, but he doesn't have any cash. Julia starts giving him expensive gifts and she starts getting inspired, cleaning herself up and getting more into performance preparation. She's even imagining that her former theater director and mentor (played well by Michael Gambon) is following her around, despensing advice.
Tom changes matters, however, when he reveals that he wants Julia to mentor Avice Crichton (Lucy Punch), a young actress that Tom has feelings for and that has looked up to Julia. Avice also ends up in bed with Julia's husband. So sets up the opportunity for the current Julia to ensure her place and rid any possibility of the future Julia to take over things. In other words, a bit of revenge.
"Being Julia" does really offer much insight and the story is a tad thin and shallow, but the performances worked well enough so that my interest was generally carried along. Bening really sinks her teeth into the role, and although I didn't believe she wouldn't have seen right past Tom, the performance is convincing and enjoyable (and I've never much liked her before.) Also great in supporting roles are Irons and especially, Chabon. Period recreation is excellent, with great production and costume design. Overall, the film didn't make a major impression, but it was mildly entertaining and moved along well.
VIDEO: Columbia/Tristar presents "Being Julia" in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Image quality is generally very fine, with only a couple of minor concerns that pop up along the way. Sharpness and detail are usually very good, with only a couple of wide shots and a couple of seemingly intentionally hazy shots that are a little softer than the rest.
A bit of light shimmer appeared briefly during a few moments, but this was hardly noticable - so were a couple of slight traces of edge enhancement. No pixelation or print flaws were spotted, though. The majority of the film appeared crisp and clean. Colors were warm and well-saturated, with no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation, as one might expect, is almost entirely dialogue-driven. Surrounds kick in once or twice for some light ambience, but the great majority of the audio is rooted in the front speakers. Audio quality seemed fine, with crisp dialogue and rich, well-recorded music.
EXTRAS: Director István Szabó offers an audio commentary where he is joined by actors Annette Bening and Jeremy Irons. I had high expectations going in, given the talent involved, and was generally pleased. Irons largely acts as interviewer, and all three provide a nice level of insight and detail about the production of the film. There's some moments of silence here-and-there and a couple of slow spots, but I was mostly pleased with the track.
Also included are two "Behind The Scenes" features that seemed mostly promotional, a few minutes of moderately interesting deleted scenes (no commentary) and previews for other titles from the studio, including "House of Flying Daggers" and "Head in the Clouds".
Final Thoughts: There's not much depth to it, but "Being Julia" is well-acted and generally enjoyable. Columbia/Tristar's DVD edition provides very good audio/video quality, and a couple of solid supplements. A recommended rental for those who haven't seen it, but fans should consider a purchase.