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  Julia World's Worst Babysitter
Year: 2008
Director: Erick Zonca
Stars: Tilda Swinton, Saul Rubinek, Kate del Castillo, Aidan Gould, Jude Ciccolella, Bruno Bichir, Horacio Garcia Rojas, Mauricio Moreno, Gaston Peterson, Kevin Kilner, John Bellucci, Ezra Buzzington, Roger Cudney, Eugene Byrd, Sandro Kopp, M.J. Karmi
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Julia (Tilda Swinton) likes to party, despite the fact she's now at an age where she really should be thinking of calming down as her lifestyle of getting blind drunk at night and sleeping with the first man who is willing to take her into the back of his car is taking its toll. She's an alcoholic, basically, and this is affecting her work as an executive in Los Angeles, to the extent that she is called in to her boss's office and told in no uncertain terms that he recent behaviour has been the last straw and she will now have to look for another job. Her co-worker Mitch (Saul Rubinek) offers to help by inviting her to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, but she is extremely sceptical that it will provide a solution; for money, however, it provides an opportunity.

There have been quite a few films called Julia down the years, so this 2008 production from director Erick Zonca would have to stand out from the crowd lest it be confused with, say, the Oscar-winner from the nineteen-seventies, though whether it did or not was debatable, remaining the footnote among screen Julias as most people would not have been aware of it. He created it as a showcase for leading character actress Swinton, offering her a protagonist role when she was more often in supporting ones, certainly in her higher profile projects, and it was evident she was seizing this chance with both hands, going all out to deliver a memorable turn, though the question remained, would she be memorable for the wrong reasons?

To put it mildly, Swinton was serving up a powerhouse performance, yet the impression of the star going way over the top was hard to shake, there's chewing the scenery and there's going Godzilla in your movie, and she was definitely the latter. Her Julia was a bundle of tics and nerves, lashing out at people, making terrible decisions, a walking disaster area who was pretty difficult to spend the duration of the movie with unless you were already a committed fan of the actress, and even then she may have given you pause when faced with well over two hours of this. It wasn't a bad turn, exactly, but it was hard to get along with when she was absolutely going for broke in her portrayal and winding up like a cartoon character.

You may believe there are women like Julia in the world, maybe you've met some of them, but to see them in a film with such lack of irony or nuance was a bit much, especially when we were asked to spend such a long time, cinematically, with her. Give us a break, Tilda, might be your reaction when you reached the halfway mark and Julia's aforementioned poor decisions have left her a criminal as she assists Elena (Kate del Castillo), a single mother who has not seen her son in some time. Well, that's nice you might think, until it's revealed that Julia has kidnapped the boy and is planning to gather a hefty ransom from his wealthy grandfather who has been looking after him ever since his mother became incapable. Julia is not doing this out of the goodness of her heart, she is doing it for profit.

But even so, no matter that Swinton and Zonca were careful to establish this sort of recklessness as the sort of activity that Julia would get up to, it remained hard to believe even someone in an alcoholic haze would have the ability to organise this without getting caught fairly quickly (she is identified by the police with some haste). Nevertheless, they were determined to drag this out as our antiheroine grows paranoid and heads off for Mexico to work out a method of securing two million dollars from the grandfather as all the while her victim Tom (Aidan Gould) starts to identify her as a mother figure, which we are supposed to believe has awoken her maternal instincts. The sole reason for this was apparently because Zonca was impressed with John Cassavetes' thriller Gloria and wanted to make something in that vein, but Gloria was a sympathetic character, whereas Julia is a human car crash taking people down with her. Mitch reappears near the end to set events in context, but this merely serves to underline how awful she was; there can be interest in watching someone ruin their life, but not here so much.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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