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Featured DVD Review: Miss Julie

May 5th, 2015

Miss Julie - Buy from Amazon: DVD

Miss Julie is the fourth adaptation of the play of the same name by August Strindberg, the most recent adaptation coming in 1999. It is also the second film starring Jessica Chastain that I've reviewed in the past few weeks. A Most Violent Year didn't live up to expectations. This film's reviews were only mixed, so my expectations are lower. I expect Jessica Chastain's performance to be great, but will the rest of the movie be the same?

The Movie

Miss Julie stars Jessica Chastain as the titular Miss Julie, whom we first meet in a short prologue as a young child.

Miss Julie lives in Ireland in the 1890s at the estate of her father, the Baron Vainglorious Most Elegant Highness. At least that's how he's described by John, his manservant, to John's fiancée, Kathleen. He's not a fan of the Baron or Miss Julie. Although, his talk about Miss Julie is more of a cover for his real feelings about her. Miss Julie might feel the same way about him. She walks into the kitchen where John and Kathleen have been talking and asks for a Midsummer night dance with John. Or this might be a strange power-play she's making.

Unfortunately, the details quickly go into spoiler territory, so we will end the plot summary there. There's not much of a plot, as the story is a character study set during one day in a very strict class setting. Personally, I didn't find it engaging. While all three actors are excellent in the film and it looks great, the characters are, while true to the original play, not enough to keep me interested, because I didn't like the two main characters. Miss Julie is manipulative, but also stuck in a society that keeps her options very, very limited. Her dealings with John are the sign of someone trying to have more control over her fate than society will allow. Additionally, and this is a spoiler here, while going after John right in front of Kathleen is far from noble, he was also far from noble in his pursuit of her. Additionally, her punishment for her act, which John is crucial in implementing, is cruel to the extreme and far from just. I know that is the point, but it is a fine line that needed to be walked here and the original play fails to do so in my opinion.

The Extras

There are two interview featurettes on the DVD. The first is ten minutes long and features Jessica Chastain and Liv Ullmann and the second is with just Jessica Chastain and runs for nine minutes.

The Verdict

Apparently Miss Julie is very faithful to the original play, outside of changing the setting from Sweden to Ireland. Because of this, I'm blaming August Strindberg for the end result. The acting is great, as is the directing, but the characters just didn't draw me into the drama. If you really liked the original play, then the movie is worth checking out at the very least. The DVD doesn't have a lot of extras either, but that's common for limited releases. Call it a rental for those that are interested.

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Filed under: Video Review, A Most Violent Year, Miss Julie, Jessica Chastain, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Liv Ullmann, Nora McMenamy