Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Film review: "Julia" (1977)

The one that started it all.  It's no surprise that I heavily favor Meryl's film work above other mediums.  Julia therefore is an important milestone in her incredible career, as it was her feature film debut.  Granted, it was a bit part, but it was by no means a bit movie.  Jane Fonda starred as former playwright/author Lillian Hellman in a story about her lifelong friendship with an anti-Fascist activist named Julia, played by Vanessa Redgrave.  Fonda was already an Academy Award winner for 1971's Klute, and Redgrave would go on to win for supporting actress in this title role. An interesting role for Redgrave, as she was a vocal supporter of the Palestinian Liberation Organization at the time, and when her Oscar nomination was announced, rabbis started burning her effigy in protest.  Jeepers.

Back to Meryl.  Despite this being her first film, she already had some pretty good acting chops from her years at Yale Drama School and various stage roles.  Her role as Anne Marie in this movie, socialite and friend to Lillian and Julia, was indeed minor, but extremely well-acted.  I can recall reading a quote from Jane Fonda saying that Streep stole every scene she was in. Her scene with Fonda in the bar was particularly foreshadowing of the excellence that was to come.  My best regards to Simply Streep for the use of this video.

So young!  She had only turned 28 a few months prior to the film's release.  Julia would go on to be nominated for 11 Academy Awards, winning three, including a best supporting actor triumph for Jason Robards. One year later Meryl would be nominated for her first Oscar in The Deer Hunter, followed by a win in the Best Supporting Actress category for 1979's Kramer vs Kramer.  

If you're wondering why I don't really get into the details of the movie, it's because I don't want to.  My film reviews are of course less about the film itself than Meryl's performance.  Since there is very little screen time for her in this movie, there isn't much of a story, other than the fact that it was her first.  Of course I've seen it, and I happened to watch Meryl's scenes a few days ago, but it's certainly not one I'd watch repeatedly like The Devil Wears Prada or Sophie's Choice.  Not that it's a bad film...quite the contrary.   It's just not very Meryl-centric.  Regardless of how we look at it, her role in this film was a spectacular catapult into the Hollywood stratosphere. 


  1. Unfortunately she learned nothing from the nobel, incredible activist lady Vanessa Redgrave.
    "My dear colleagues, I thank you very much for this tribute to my work. I think that Jane Fonda and I have done the best work of our lives and I think this is in part due to our director, Fred Zinnemann. [Audience applauds.]

    And I also think it's in part because we believed and we believe in what we were expressing - two out of millions who gave their lives and were to prepared to sacrifice everything in the fight against fascist and racist Nazi Germany.

    And I salute you and I pay tribute to you and I think you should be very proud that in the last few weeks you've stood firm and you have refused to be intimidated by the threats of a small bunch of Zionist hoodlums [gasps from the audience followed by a smattering of boos and clapping] whose behavior is an insult to the stature of Jews all over the world and their great and heroic record of struggle against fascism and oppression.

    And I salute that record and I salute all of you for having stood firm and dealt a final blow against that period when Nixon and McCarthy launched a worldwide witch-hunt against those who tried to express in their lives and their work the truth that they believe in [some boos and hissing]. I salute you and I thank you and I pledge to you that I will continue to fight against anti-Semitism and fascism."

    Redgrave and Travolta embraced and left the stage together to loud applause. Not present for the diatribe were the "Zionist hoodlums." They were just outside the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion burning an effigy of the Best Supporting Actress and shouting "Vanessa is a murderer!".

  2. With Holocaust, my favorite Meryl performance. Trying futilely to discover if 'Anne Marie' is an alias, a composite character -or purely fictitious?

    1. I'm sure composites from multiple people, but the character/family in the miniseries is fictitious.