Miss Julie

Directed By: Liv Ullmann

Starring: Jessica Chastain, Colin Farrell, and Samantha Morton

I mentioned this earlier this year in my review of Under the Skin, but we haven't had a lot of weird ones at the indie box office this year.  Few filmmakers are taking risks with the strange and bizarre, particularly in this later half of the year (with the obvious exception of Birdman).  I understand their reasons, but I don't agree with them.  Risks are the reasons for which many duds crash and burn at the box office, but they’re also the stuff of which audacious, bold films are made.  This weekend, we've got a risky adaptation of August Strindberg's stage play Miss Julie.  While class distinctions and love triangles certainly complicate the film's central romance, it's director Liv Ullmann's relentlessness in exploring every aspect of her leads' perverted feelings in painstaking detail that ultimately makes Miss Julie a weird one.

Miss Julie (Jessica Chastain) is the daughter of the house.  With her father the Baron away, she is in charge at the manor.  The valet Jean (Colin Farrell) and his fiancée and cook Christine (Samantha Morton) are the servants who endure Miss Julie's whims the most.  Full of desire and seeking companionship, she sets her sights on Jean fully aware that there is something between Jean and Christine.  Things heat up on this Midsummer's Eve as Miss Julie pursues the elusive Jean.  Their passions overcome them, and they make a mistake, one that cannot be undone.  Now, the two must navigate the complicated love life they've brought upon themselves.

Miss Julie is an adaptation of a classic play, and it would not be considered peculiar if Liv Ullmann were to have made different creative decisions.  She gives Chastain and Farrell the freedom to explore every crevice of their instantly intricate love life over the course of two long hours.  As they oscillate repeatedly between tense arguments and tender romance, Chastain and Farrell crawl on all fours like beasts kissing each other’s shoes and begging one another to give the other orders.  That's hardly what I consider to be entertaining.  While this is based on Strindberg's source material, having each and every one of these scenes drawn out so that the audience can experience the full gamut of her characters' feelings and emotions is not exactly ideal.  In fact, it makes for painfully awkward moviegoing.

The acting is a bit over the top, but the film boasts several intriguing personalities.  For her part as Miss Julie, Jessica Chastain pivots back and forth between this powerful, lustful elitist and a desperate, depressed woman.  She has never really been exposed to the world and doesn't know how to handle it.  For his part as Jean, Colin Farrell wears the mask of a dutiful employee but suddenly takes it off and becomes a commanding brute.  Somewhere in there, he's a man of the times and happily embraces change.  Finally, we have Samantha Morton as the sensible Christine.  Time and time again, she's the voice against change, the fearful subservient who embraces the oppressive status quo.

Miss Julie is a filler film that may hold the attention of some, but it's not for everyone.  Despite some interesting performances from its trio of stars, this movie misses the mark.  Miss Julie gets a 0.09% rating.  Have an Old Fashioned or two with this one.