Easily one of the best films to be released this year—albeit not in Las Vegas—Julia finds perpetually cool Oscar-winner Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton) taking a flamethrower to her image, playing the sort of lunkheaded-loser role one usually finds only in hard-boiled Jim Thompson novels. A promiscuous, foul-mouthed alcoholic who’s just been canned from her last-ditch real-estate job, the title character stumbles onto a ludicrous kidnapping plot and impulsively decides to grab the tycoon’s kid herself, fleeing first into the LA desert and eventually across the border into Mexico, where even more jaw-dropping trouble awaits. There’s $2 million in it for Julia, assuming that she can survive the ordeal ... and provided she doesn’t get attached to her victim.
Co-written and directed by French auteur Erick Zonca, Julia confounded critics at the 2008 Berlin Film Festival, since everyone expected another film like Zonca’s beloved 1998 The Dreamlife of Angels—a nuanced, delicately acted chamber piece. Instead, Zonca served up this full-throttle carnival of black-comic mayhem, with Swinton all but tearing holes in the screen in what amounts to a hilariously grotesque caricature of motherhood. If plot logic matters to you, steer well clear, as everything that happens lands somewhere on the continuum from unlikely to preposterous. Those in the market for something awesomely out of control, however, will find themselves unable to look away from this crazy, spontaneous bulldozer of a movie.