In 1982, the same year Sir Ben Kingsley won his Best Actor Oscar for Gandhi, the year’s other big movie was Steven Spielberg’s E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial. Now, 40 years later, Kingsley has found his own E.T., a sort of combination of that classic with a bit of Cocoon, and perhaps The Father. But Jules, the new dramedy having its World Premiere as opening night of the Sonoma Film Festival, marches to its own sweet beat, and represents yet another game attempt to bring that older adult audience back to theaters. A smart distributor should take a close look.
Directed by industry veteran producer and director Marc Turtletaub and written by Gavin Steckler, this slight but engaging, even quirky little film, is a crowd pleaser that presents Kingsley with a role that fits like a glove, and one we haven’t seen him often do, especially with a full head of hair. Here he plays Milton, a small American town retiree whose memory seems to be slowly failing him. A widower who lives defiantly on his own, no retirement homes for him, he regularly turns up at the local city council meetings, and has a daughter Denise (Zoe Winters) who is increasingly concerned about his mental well-being.
One day, a space ship crash lands in his back yard, and he finds himself confronted by the sight of an injured young alien. At first startled, he then goes about finding ways to bring this little spaceman back to life, as it were, especially when he hits on apples as the one food the Alien scarfs down. Of course, this far-fetched incident does nothing to convince Denise, or other people, that he isn’t just totally losing his mind once they get wind of Milton’s ‘tall’ story. But soon, one older neighbor, Sandy (Harriett Sansom Harris) snoops around his house and discovers his newfound companion.
She sets about helping both of them, befriending the Alien they now call Jules (Jade Quon, in a fine ethereal performance), and keeping it all secret until yet another elderly neighbor, Joyce (Jane Curtain) also catches on to what is happening over at Milton’s. This trio now must find a way to help Jules ( or Gary, as Joyce prefers to call him) get back home. But first they have to find a way to fix his spaceship, and well, the recipe involves dead cats (that is the quirky part).
A simple tale with a sci-fi twist in which to explore the pitfalls and poignancy of growing old with dignity intact, maybe not being as sharp as you once were, but still finding meaning in life – that’s what Jules is all about. Kingsley brings touching authenticity to the role, never overplaying a single moment in a movie that goes down easy and ultimately comes to just the right conclusion.
In some ways, it is reminiscent of a wonderful Paul Mazursky film, Harry And Tonto, that won Art Carney an Oscar in 1974 and dealt with an aging man’s journey with his cat. There are cats in this plot, but the journey Milton takes is clearly with Jules, and it is a memorable one made all the better with pros like Harris and Curtain along for the ride. When you have a cast this fine, it would be hard to mess it up, and Turtletaub comes up with just the right tone to make it all work. Of course, a master like Sir Ben doesn’t hurt the cause.
Producers are Turtletaub, Alex Turtletaub, Michael B. Clark, Debbie Liebling, and Andy Daly. Volker Bertelmann, who just won an Oscar a few days ago for his splendid score for All Quiet On The Western Front, provides the perfect bittersweet music that helps make Jules the small pleasure that it is.
The post ‘Jules’ Review: Ben Kingsley Finds Comfort In Aging With Some Help From Outer Space In Sweet ‘Cocoon’-Like Dramedy – Sonoma Film Festival appeared first on Deadline.