Movie Review: Cold hearted romance

Yuval Granot's Julia Mia.

julia mia 248.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
julia mia 248.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
JULIA MIA ** Written and directed by Yuval Granot. Hebrew title: Julia Mia. 87 minutes. Hebrew with English titles. Romance is dead in Tel Aviv. At least that's the way it looks in Julia Mia, a new Israeli film, in which the romantic hero is a man who leaves his wife just after she gives birth to their first child for a slightly younger, prettier woman. We're supposed to empathize with his great passion and sympathize with his sensitivity and pain when things don't quite work out the way he wants. Great premise for a romantic comedy, right? Well, not really. I wonder if anyone even read this script all the way through before investing in it? Someone should have told director Yuval Granot that the main audience for romantic films is women or couples on dates. A key ingredient of those films is inevitably sentimental, starry-eyed love. But this movie's heart is so cold it makes guy-oriented comedies, such as Superbad, look like an episode of the weepiest soap opera. Julia Mia, which won top honors at the Haifa International Film Festival in 2007 (go figure), has a promising start. All good-looking and lively, the actors live in that rarefied artsy Tel Aviv world. Johnny (Haim Znatty) is a handsome film director married to Limor (Adi Even Tov), the actress who has starred in all his films. She is in her last month of pregnancy. She is such a good sport that she doesn't object when Johnny tells her that he's suspending production on his latest film, in which she has a central role. Even when he tells her of his decision to remake Pretty Woman in Israel and has even found a Julia Roberts-type he wants to cast, she trusts him. The Julia Roberts clone is Mia (Hagar Ben Asher). She is tall, with a nose and mouth like Roberts', but whose sensual screen presence is more reminiscent of Maria Schneider in Last Tango in Paris (although here there are no explicit sex scenes like in Tango). She is not an actress, a fact that no one considers problematic, but a representative for the cable TV network YES - which gets a huge plug in this film. He approaches her to act in his film, in a way that amuses her but would seem creepy in real life. She is a free spirit, who has a casual but sophisticated relationship with her widowed father (singer/songwriter Dori Ben-Ze'ev). Her character-defining traits are her clunky shoes, her preference for ordering pizza rather than cooking, her penchant for stealing other people's photos for no good reason and her tendency to reply, "Walla!" whenever anyone says anything. But she is tall and gorgeous and Johnny is instantly smitten. At first she resists taking the acting job but of course she eventually agrees. Their relationship is presented as idyllic, as they film scenes together for his movie, complete with jazz music and romantic lighting. So he leaves his wife, in spite of the fact she has instantly lost all the baby weight. The fact that his behavior can only best be described with words forbidden to print in this forum doesn't seem to concern him in the slightest. In the beginning, before the plot gets going, this movie has some fun moments as it finds the glamour in the rundown streets of South Tel Aviv. At least there is one aspect of the film that's an unqualified success: The jazzy score, by Gil Toren, Uri Gintzel, Yonatan Rosen and Guy Levy. So lovely, it helps mask many of the film's flaws - at least while you're watching. But this well-acted, carefully photographed and beautifully scored film was made with so little thought and insight into love or any other genuine emotion that it may leave you despairing human nature. Or it might just make you angry. Or very, very annoyed. Why not spare yourself the aggravation and just buy the soundtrack?