Friday, February 18, 2011

Jane Fonda in Julia

Jane Fonda received her third Best Actress nomination for playing Lillian Hellman, the famous playwright in Fred Zinnemann's Best Picture nominated drama, Julia. I think Jane Fonda was the only one who threatened Diane Keaton's Oscar win as dear Jane was THE star, she had previously won the Golden Globe for her performance and Julia seems to have much more Oscar potential in itself than Annie Hall since it's a huge, political drama. So I think Jane was a close second in the voting and I think this loss also contributed to her Oscar win the following year.

Julia is an intelligent, old-school political drama, which (like The Turning Point) doesn't have the innovative nature of the 70s movies. It's excellently written, directed, acted and made altogether. Actually, at the time, I would have expected it to take Best Picture. I'm glad that Annie Hall won eventually. Jason Robards and Vanessa Redgrave give truly outstanding and effective supporting performances and I tend to say that their Oscars were deserved (especially Vanessa's). I don't get the nomination of Maximilian Schell, though.

Jane Fonda is someone I deeply love as an actress and she's also a terrific person (very much, after we wished Happy New Year to each other). OK, to put everything personal aside, she's a brilliant-brilliant actress who's so extremely versatile and she's a living legend. Jane's contribution to the cinema is greater than most Oscar winners(!) can ever dream of. She plays everything: the bitter, poor and desperate woman in They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, a hooker in Klute, a reporter in The China Syndrome and the list could go on. One just isn't surprised that she can do a role like Lillian Hellman and she really nailed it.

Playing real-life people always pays off with the Academy. When Al Pacino won the Golden Globe for his performance in You Don't Know Jack, he said in his acceptance speech that it's always a real gift to play a real-life person, even though you cannot be really sure that you played it well. Actors want to capture even the thoughts of the characters. However, I never felt that Jane wanted to imitate Lillian Hellman the way Meryl Streep did in Julie & Julia. Jane uses her own style and therefore I never felt that the performance was forced in any way. She approached this very interesting character with so much subtlety and confidence. I mean it's so great that the bigger, effective emotional scenes are not loud and over-the-top, but rather quite and very intimate.

After all, this whole story might be fiction. It's based on Lillian Hellman's work though I'm not sure of it happened in real life. Jane Fonda made Lillian very mysterious and it made the performance so dazzling. Is this a part of Lillian's imagination? Is this reality? How is it? There are so many beautiful layers in this character and Jane so brilliantly revealed all of them. Lillian seems to be very naive in the beginning. In my opinion, Jane nailed these scenes (they are so brilliant, I think) though one day I might be understand why some people criticise it.

First of all, Jane's brilliance is so obvious when we see the anxiety of Lillian. Lillian feels like a fish out of water in Paris, she doesn't feel like partying and I could really get her problems. After that, there are those scenes on the train that are truly unforgettable. Jane shows so many emotions there: fear, worry, but also courage and confidence sometimes. It's so great when she's talking to the officer at the border. Her nervous ticks are so brilliantly executed and well-delivered.

Later on, there comes the scene at the café, which is one of the most emotionally strong scenes I've ever seen. It's just brilliant to watch these two beautiful actresses (Fonda and Redgrave) act together. Their collaboration was certainly collaboration and not rivalling. They are supporting each other and they don't try to outact each other. Their chemistry is simply perfect. I feel that they are just like sisters and they really love and care about each other. Most people are more impressed by Redgrave, but I will have to go with Jane Fonda. Her face is so full of admiration and love for Julia. I think Julia might just be the better self of Lillian, something Lillian really wanted to be. SPOILER That's why those scene where Lillian looks at Julia's body is so painful. Jane made those scenes really heartbreaking. Lillian lost her better self, but she has a chance of finding her again if she finally finds Lilly, the daughter of Julia. Jane's huge breakdown scene in the bathroom is simply breathtaking. She so brilliantly executed those moments, there are no false notes in it, everything is pitch-perfect.

So, to sum up, people don't rave about this performance as much as they do about, say, Klute and They Shoot Horses... even though they should. It's one of the most beautiful and heartbreaking peformances every by this beautiful (who's never been more beautiful than here), superbly talented actress. It's really no surprise that Jane Fonda is still one of the most celebrated performance. Excellent.
I gave this 5 easily and with such joy.

What do you think?


Fritz said...

I expected you to give her 5 :-)

I haven't seen her in a while but I think I liked her more than usual.

dinasztie said...

I know you're not a huge fan of dear Jane and I AM a huge fan, so... I loved this performance for the first time but I loved it even more now.

Anonymous said...

I'm not agree with your review, But I understand. I just think that Jane is overrated for this film. Everything she does is thought, I mean everything is calculated, especially in the train's scenes: she trembles, she sweats, she looks everywhere.... it's overplayed, I would prefer a more subtil performance.

I'm a huge fan of her, but I'm not convinced with this performance.
By the way, regrave is shinning in this film, et I still love reading your reviews.

PS: sorry for my english, I hope you understand everything

dinasztie said...

Anon: I see what you mean, but I still love her in this one immensely.

joe burns said...

She is great, though not quite a five from me. I'm guessing she'll be second.

Anonymous said...

I really hope she wins! She definitely wins in my opinion (because I was not impressed at all with Diane Keaton's performance), she was perfect in this film just as you said in your brilliant review, definitely one of my favorite performances by Jane Fonda, and that is saying a lot since she's one of my favorite actresses, really good film as well, I liked everything about it. 5 Meryls without even thinking about it.

dinasztie said...

Anon: Thanks. Well, the final conclusion is very close, so you don't have to wait a lot to find out if she wins.

mayukhers112 said...
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Dario said...

I agree, beautiful Jane has never looked as beautiful in this movie as ever, with the makeup and hairdo and everything. I do think, however, that despite Jane's tons of screentime, Vanessa Redgrave still gave the best and most memorable performance in this movie.

I still think she'll make a good winner, too, if it wasn't for the astonishing Diane Keaton. By the way Daniel, which one you prefer, Jane here or in Coming Home? I really like both and would be fine had she win for any of them, but I think I'll pick Coming Home over Julia, even if they're both very close and just as great.