FILM REVIEW — “Jules” is charming sci-fi dramedy
Published 12:04 am Friday, August 11, 2023
Directed by Marc Turtletaub
Starring Ben Kingsley, Jane Curtin, Harriet Sansom Harris, Jade Quon and Zoe Winters
2 ½ Stars
“Jules” is a charming little dramedy with a quirky sci fi plot. It really is quite sweet.
The problem is for many people, “charming,” “quirky” and “sweet” are frequently employed as code words for well-meaning but mediocre movies.
That’s somewhat true for this movie, although it certainly tries to be something more than just charming. The film features a quartet of wonderful acting performances, as well as some nice points about growing older.
Yet the direction is so devoid of tension that it’s hard to get overly involved in what’s going on up on the screen.
So, yeah. It’s charming.
Sir Ben Kingsley stars as Milton, a lonely old codger whose life seems to revolve around going to city council meetings and complaining about the need for a new traffic signal or his suggestion for a new town motto.
That changes one day when a UFO crashes into his backyard, destroying his azalea bushes.
An odd little alien creature (Jade Quon) appears and strikes up a friendship with Milton—due mostly to the fact that the mute alien is content to sit and listen to Milton’s old man thoughts.
Jane Curtin and Harriet Sansom Harris show up as two nosey neighbors who are shocked to see an alien creature sitting peacefully on Milton’s couch, eating apples and watching TV.
They decide to name the alien Jules.
You might expect that the rest of the story follows Milton as he tries to keep Jules a secret long enough for him (her?) to repair the spacecraft and fly home. There is a bit of that, as Milton’s daughter (Zoe Winters) starts to become alarmed about her father’s odd behavior.
There are also a few, fleeting mentions of a shadowy government agency looking for a missing “weather satellite,” but none of this is treated as anything more than an inconvenience. Director Marc Turtletaub doesn’t give the story any genuine stakes, leaving us to ruminate on a sweet relationship between a lonely old man and his alien friend.
Once again, it’s very sweet. It’s also a bit boring.
Credit to Kingsley who gives a superb performance, which is what you expect from an actor of his caliber.
It’s also quite wonderful watching Curtin and Harris match him, acting wise. These are two journeywoman actors who are mostly known for playing stock characters.
It’s nice to see them in roles that allow them to flex their acting muscles.
And more credit to Quon, playing the title creature. It’s a mute performance, so she has to communicate everything with body language that’s buried under a mountain of rubber prosthetics.
No offense intended to Sir Ben, but there are moments here where Quon is delivering the best performance in the film.
With so many superb performances in this film, you might be wondering why “Jules” left me so unimpressed. The answer is that the film totters along at such a languid pace that it’s far too easy to let your attention drift.
Perhaps it’s indicative of our contemporary movie culture that we demand non-stop excitement and spectacle. Perhaps I simply wasn’t in the mood for a sweet little story without much conflict to propel the story forward. Perhaps it will play better on home streaming.
Whatever the reason, “Jules” left me shrugging.
I did actually enjoy the film, but it’s impossible to dislike a film that’s so “sweet” and “charming.” I just wish it had been a little more “engaging.”
Movie reviews by Sean McBride, “The Movie Guy,” are published each week by Orange Newsmedia and seen weekly on KFDM and Fox4. Sean welcomes your comments via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.