GOOD: VANYA ON 42ND STREET
Julianne Moore is a Movie Star... but before that, she was an actress. In the early to mid-90s, eagle-eyed viewers could spot her unique and redheaded luminescence on the margins of Hollywood movies and daytime soaps. With the release of a string of acclaimed indies, however, the world took notice - and the first was VANYA ON 42ND STREET. It's a love letter to the theatre in which a company of character actors gather to rehearse in a crumbling Times Square theatre. With nothing but their street clothes, some makeshift props and the presence of Our Greatest Living Actress, Andre Gregory's company put on the best rendition of Chekhov EVER. Also immediately apparent are the nascent qualities we'd come to know as Julianne trademarks: fearless sexuality, heartbreaking vulnerability and a mercurial spontaneity. As Yelena, an unreadable beauty who turns the head of Wallace Shawn and every other man she encounters, the former Julie Ann Smith announces to us all that we'd better pay attention because this woman is like no one else.
Julianne Moore can do no wrong - so who the hell convinced her to play Clarice Starling?! Taking up the baton from Jodie Foster, Moore is saddled with an iffy West Virginia drawl and some even dodgier sexual politics in this completely unnecessary - and completely disgusting - sequel to THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Returning as Hannibal the Cannibal, Anthony Hopkins chews much more than the scenery, while Gary Oldman out-grosses him as a disfigured and deviant vengeful paedophile. Julianne must suffer the indignities of male lechery, ludicrously OTT violence and a narrative sidelining that will leave you screaming along with the lambs. Misogynist, ludicrous and ultimately revolting this is the kind of movie that not only fries your brain but serves it up to you with a balsamic demi-glaze. While Clarice is rendered expendable, Julianne was somehow spared the kind of career disemboweling that would've destroyed a lesser talent. Bon Appetit!
CRAZY: SAVAGE GRACE
No one plays fucked-up, damaged sexuality quite like Julianne Moore. In SAVAGE GRACE, as the mercurial heiress Barbara Bakeland whose relationship with her son (Eddie Redmayne) goes from over-intimacy to incest, she stops at all the Stations of the Cross of camp insanity. Accosting her philandering husband in an airport while wearing a flagrant red dress? Check. Making her pre-pubescent son recite porn in a foreign language? Check. Having a threesome with said son's male lover? Check. Somehow, despite the hothouse atmosphere, suicide attempts and moody hallucinations, Juli and Eddie somehow manage to make these perverse, insular characters weirdly fun -- that is, until the incestuous sex grows both mechanical and murderous. Brian and Seán debate the merits of this particularly transgressive example of New Queer Cinema but conclude that it is undeniably watchable -- and that no one but Julianne could make all these crazy contradictions cohere, por el culo.