Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Day Julia's Name Fell Out of My Head

I was busy writing up my notes for "Money Monster" after a recent viewing, when the name of the female lead, who was once the most famous leading actress on the planet, fell out of my head. All I could think was that her name was Julia. But Julia What? Not Julia Childs. Not Julia Louis Dreyfuss. Not Raoul Julia, What? It was on the tip of my tongue. I could see her face in my mind. Curly red hair. Played a hooker with a heart of gold in her big breakout movie, but eventually became America's everywoman sweetheart. Queen of the romantic comedies. Beautiful smile with a lot of teeth, that the cartoonists often exaggerate to ridiculous proportions. Her kids are named Phinneas and Hazel. Why did I know that? Why couldn't I remember her last name?

I tried putting her in context. "Pretty Woman" starring Julia... "Runaway Bride" starring Julia... Er, "Flatliners" starring Julia...? Or how about George Clooney and Julia...? Richard Gere and Julia... Hugh Grant and Julia... Bruce Willis and Julia...? Was I just imagining that last one? Surely those two had been in something together. I'd seen so many of her movies, but suddenly I couldn't seem to remember many. Let's see... "The Pelican Brief," "My Best Friend's Wedding," "Erin Brockovitch," the one with Mel Gibson, the one with Nick Nolte, the one where she played Tinker Bell, "Oceans Eleven" and "Oceans Twelve" - had she done much since "Oceans Twelve"? I vaguely remembered a Gary Marshall movie with crummy reviews coming out earlier in the year. There had also been a similar one she'd appeared in, a year or two before that. Maybe one of the holiday themed ensemble rom-com movies, or was that a different director?

Gerard Depardieu and Julia? No, that was "Green Card," with Andie McDowell. My memory must be failing me. I'm used to forgetting the names of old high school classmates and obscure anime from the '90s, not major movie stars, even if they have fallen off the radar a bit. And I had just watched "Money Monster," where Julia Whatshername turned in a perfectly good supporting performance as the director of a cable news program taken hostage. She and George Clooney are well paired in a middling, but still fun thriller that would have easily made twice its $40 million domestic box office take fifteen years ago. Now, it's counterprogramming aimed at older audiences who aren't interested in superheroes. Thanks to the low budget, it still made money, because Julia's no longer pulling in $20 million per movie. But Julia who? Julia Duffy? Julia Stiles? Julia Petulia Bamboolia Googly-goolia...

I always liked her, though I wouldn't call myself a fan. She was a default, a given quantity, a fallback option, a proven success. If you grew up in the '90s, you watched Julia's movies. You watched her charm the pants off her love interest and the audience and make it look so easy. Movies were never quite the same after her semi-retirement at the end of the decade, after winning her Oscar. I was glad that she won, even though I admit to grumbling online that Ellen Burstyn deserved it more for "Requiem for a Dream." It was hard not to root for Julia. Everyone loved her, and I know that that many still do. I seriously doubt that there are many moviegoers who needed to read more than two lines of this post to figure out exactly which Julia I'm talking about.

You know, the one who starred in "Mary Reilly," and "Stepmom," and "Mona Lisa Smile," and "Buddy" - wait, no. That last one was Renee Russo. I mean, no one else could really compare. After Julia and Meg Ryan were gone, romantic comedies fell off a cliff. Renee Zellweger, Reese Witherspoon, and Katherine Heigle had a couple of successes, but they couldn't take her place. Sandra Bullock is probably the closest thing to a reigning rom-com queen we've got at the moment, and she hasn't actually made a rom-com since 2009. I miss Julia. I mean, I know she never actually went anywhere, and she's still been regularly appearing in movies over the past fifteen years. But... I miss Julia Roberts movies.

Roberts. That's it. Julia Roberts. I miss her movies, and I miss the moviemaking age that they existed in.

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