Julia, screenplay by Alvin Sargent, based upon the story by Lillian Hellman
Julia is a very good motion picture, winner of three Academy Awards – Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Jason Robards, Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Vanessa Redgrave and Best Writing for Alvin Sargent – the Golden Globes for Vanessa Redgrave and Jane Fonda, the latter in the category Best Actress in a Leading Role.
There have been other major wins- BAFTA for Best Picture especially – and nominations for Oscars and Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture, Director, Actor in a Supporting Role for Maximillian Schell.
The story is indeed worthwhile, if sad, thought provoking, with lessons about role models, two brave women, in that a film that was rare at its time, without men dominating the narrative and the screen.
Jane Fonda is one of the legends of Hollywood and world cinema, a militant actress, involved in the fight for human rights and playing a character- the main one – that does its part in the fight against the Nazis.
It is not a role on the scale of the one that her best friend – Julia aka Vanessa Redgrave- has, for the title of the film was not chosen lightly, although it is a supporting role in the film, the narrative has a Wonder Woman in this heroic figure that dedicates and ultimately sacrifices her life in the struggle against the fascists.
Perhaps it is not coincidental, maybe the director and producers selected their leading actresses on purpose, for Vanessa Redgrave – not one of the favorites of this cinephile though – is another artist famous for her political views, her stand, which may seem too much on the left for some.
Indeed, Julia seems to be a socialist –which if it does not become communism might be acceptable, although looking at the motion picture, a viewer may start thinking – it is always the right thing to fight against communism, but that does not necessarily means the communists represent the Good.
This could be a case of Kim of Korea fighting Duterte of the Philippines or Maduro of Venezuela, that is villains fighting other bad hombres and even if it is always good to oppose dictators, murderers and lunatics, it does not make the opponents saints overnight.
In childhood, Julia and Lillian are best friends and they will stay that way throughout their lives, to the point where one of their acquaintances, when drunk, brings out the rumor that everyone shares about the two women being more than friends – intimating they are actually lovers.
While Jane Fonda becomes a writer, struggling to find inspiration, experiencing overwhelming success with her first play and alas, failure with the next, Julia travels to Vienna, where she becomes a fighter against the horrendous, abominable Hitler regime.
Opposing the fascists is evidently very dangerous and the brave, self-sacrificing Wonder Woman faces the consequences a she is abused, hospitalized and her best friend has the chance and sorrow to visit her.
After that, the patient disappears without a trace, the first explanation when Lillian visits is that she is undergoing an operation, but later, they deny that Julia has ever been a patient in that hospital.
Lillian has a lover and mentor, Hammett, played by the Oscar Winner and fabulous actor, Jason Robards, who brings some equilibrium in the life of the tormented, tense, sometimes neurotic younger partner.
Jane Fonda has a brief exchange with Meryl Streep – two of the Goddess meeting on the screen.
Julia has a special request to make and sends one of her friends and another freedom fighter – Johann aka the wonderful Maximilian Schell – to meet her and give some instructions for the leader of the Resistance, asking if Lilian would like to change her itinerary for a trip to Moscow.
The opponents of Hitler and his acolytes would like the American to travel through Berlin, where she would depose a package, instead of her initial itinerary and if she agrees, she would give a sign to Johann at the Paris Railway station.
There follow some scenes familiar from spies movies, James Bond, Jason Bourne and others, without the known chutzpah but intense nevertheless, with a fur hat that has an important sum of money inside, a chocolate box and various helpers from the Resistance along the way.
In Berlin, the two best friends meet for a few minutes, devastated Lillian seeing that Julia has a wooden leg now, but is still brave, strong, determined – perhaps more than ever – in her struggle against evil.
On a side, mean note – it could be another sort of wrong that she had in mind, if she was determined to replace the terror, abhorrence of the Nazi regime with communism, which this viewer has experienced and loathes as much as Hitlerism.
Julia has another, emotional and unexpectedly personal demand, she asks her longtime friend to take care of her daughter- named…Lilly – who stays with the family of a baker, across the border in Alsace- they then separate and the freedom fighter emphasizes the support given by Lillian- the money brought in would save the lives of five hundred, maybe one thousand people!
Tragically, Julia is killed by the monstrous fascist regime and her best friend travels to London to attend her funeral and then tries to find the daughter.