Saturday, May 5, 2007


Next is a bad sci-fi movie. Adapted from the classic short story by Philip K. Dick, it's a dumb, incoherent mess that wastes the time of the actors trapped in it. I'm sure Nicholas Cage doesn't care because he's been in a greedy, take-the-money-and-run frenzy for a long time now, but what it does to Julianne Moore should be illegal.

Besides, Julianne doesn't have the time to waste.

Julianne is a very talented actress and a very beautiful woman. So, unfortunately, what usually happens is that most of the guys in Hollywood making movies won't take her seriously. After all, what beautiful women usually do in movies is take off their clothes, go out with ugly guys old enough to be their fathers, or become lunch meat for serial killers.

Julianne has either been miscast (The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Hannibal), or stuck playing another variation of her sad, fragile, and sexually-frustrated housewife/single mom character (The Hours, The End of The Affair, Far From Heaven, Boogie Nights, Magnolia). And no, it's not entirely her fault.

Nicholson, DeNiro, and Pacino haven't played characters other than themselves for years, but whenever they feel like being actors again, the roles will be waiting for them. It's called having a choice. Meanwhile, because of the table scraps Hollywood feeds them, too many actresses are starving to death.

Still, let's not forget that when she's not doing junk, Julianne Moore is a formidable actress. In Children of Men, Julianne had a role that was commensurate with her talent. Directed by Alfonso Cauron (Y Tu Mama¡ Tambien, The Little Princess and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), it's a brilliant, thought-provoking and terrifying film that should have won the Oscar.

Adapted from the novel by P.D. James, the film takes us to London in the year 2027. Things ain't looking too good. Bombs explode in coffee shops. There are more guns than food. Rotting garbage fills the streets. No jobs. Illegal immigrants are herded into internment camps. And when you think things can't get any worse, no child has been born in the world for eighteen years. It's as though all those inconvenient truths we've ignored finally got tired of knocking and kicked the door in. Theo (Clive Owen) is an ex-activist who's now a bitter, gin-soaked bureaucrat and all he wants to do with the rest of his life is, as the Pink Floyd song put it, get "comfortably numb". But his ex-wife Julian, a guerrilla soldier hunted by the government, unexpectedly reappears and wants Theo to join her on a deadly and mysterious mission.

Julian, as played by Julianne Moore, is a very important plot construct because she has to convince us that this cynical drunkard would be willing to risk his life. Theo's decision has to be logical. In a bad movie, a bad script would compel him do it just to move the narrative along. If it doesn't make sense, it feels emotionally off-key to the audience and the film won't work. Does Theo tell Julian to "Bugger Off"? No. Amazingly, besides getting Theo to agree, I was ready to pack my own suitcase and join them because Julianne made me believe in Julian. Yeah, she's that good.

A less-talented actress could have easily turned Julian into a dull, placidly-smiling and romanticized saint who walked on water or a shrill, bromide-spouting G.I. Jane, but no, Julianne doesn't do that. Instead, Julianne invests her character with compassion, wit, strength, mischief, poignancy and wisdom. This is a mature and heartbreaking performance that only a woman could deliver, not a little girl.

In less than fifteen minutes of time on screen, Julianne gives us a lifetime. It's breathtaking.

I can't wait to see what Julianne does next, after Next.