A Jewel Of A Film

Starring: Ben Kingsley, Jane Curtin, Harriet Sansom Harris, Zoe Winters and Jade Quon
Director: Marc Turtletaub
Scriptwriter: Gavin Steckler
Composer: Hauschka
Cinematography: Christopher Norr
Big Beach/Bleecker Street
Rating: PG 13 for themed material
Running Length: 127 Minutes

Amid a summer of blockbuster adventure films, Barbie dolls and atom bombs, comes a calm, easy-going film with comic touches that appear at surprising moments and unexpectedly move the story along. Writer Gavin Steckler (“Review”) gives the audience a story of an alien and saucer landing in someone’s backyard. Director Marc Turtletaub (“The Farewell”) has the camera focus on faces. The looks on people’s faces add to the adventure that is taking place before them. The cast, Ben Kingsley (“Daliland”), Jane Curtin (“Queen Bees”), Harriet Sansom Harris (“Licorice Pizza”), Zoe Winters (“Succession”) and Jade Quon (“Unspoken”) take the story and run with it. A story that is rather like “Cocoon,” in that elder adults try to fit into this world that is rapidly changing around them, only to find out they are really ahead of the game after all. Composer Hauschka, whose real name is Volker Bertelmann, gives us music that blends in seamlessly to carry the audience along. It is background with a feather touch.

“Jules” opens with Milton (Kingsley) coming down a street and going to a city council meeting. He is expected as he has the same thing to say each time he is there – a certain street needs a crosswalk. You gather that he is an old, lonely man, yet friends with his daughter, Denise (Winters) and neighbors, Sandy (Harris) and Joyce (Curtin). One night, Milton hears a strange sound in his spacious back yard, only to behold a saucer embedded in the ground and a small, silver creature in need of help. Milton tends to this person, gradually learning what food to feed (apples) and clothing (t-shirts) to hide the silver covering of its body. He names the person “Jules.” Sandy figures out someone else is in Milton’s house, then Joyce figures this out and together they decide to keep Jules a secret. This is a cozy four-some, and the group finds that Jules is a good listener, though silent. In the meantime, Milton’s daughter thinks he is losing his senses, the neighbors are curious about what is going on at Milton’s house, and keeping anyone from seeing Jules becomes more and more difficult, once the government becomes involved. They think they have tracked a “flying saucer” to a location near Milton’s house….and away we go.

The gentle humor of the story comes along at unexpected moments, such as, when the next scene comes, it is not what you expect at all and we go off in another direction. Example: government agents come to a neighbor’s house as she called in a flying saucer in another neighbor’s yard. Enter the agents only to find a large art mural Sandy has created. Neighbor puzzled…agents leave in disbelief…and Jules is safe. Composer Hauschka, hits the mark each time with appropriate music and the camera shots show just enough so you know when something happened and your imagination takes over.

For acting, the four main characters offer different aspects of their lives. Ben Kingsley (Milton) is the older man, set in his way, who is open to extraordinary without a change in expression. The outside world does not see the warmth that is there. Harriet Sansom Harris (Sandy) is the friendly neighbor who looks out for Ben and is more interested in proper attire for Jules than where-in-the-world did you come from. Jane Curtin (Joyce) does steal scenes with her nosey neighbor-peeking through bushes, and giving Jules a taste of life on Earth during the Sixties. Now, for Jules, actress/stunt double Jade Quon, does a striking job of portraying someone who cannot speak, but works through motions, hands, feet, body, you name it.  It is a lesson in being a mime.

“Jules” is a story of loneliness whether it comes from outer space or dwells on Earth. The lone traveler takes to Joyce’s beatnik music and expressions of longing, and you can tell this from the change of a wrinkle in its face. This is a lonely group, and it comes together in pieces to form a friendship that crosses galaxies. Each person has something they posses they want to share, whether it be pets, art or flowers. They want to be understood for what they are, but no one before Jules arrival, had time to listen. What they have now, is a quiet listener who has traveled space and understands being alone, and finds friends in unexpected places. You may never want to throw that old t-shirt away again.

A note for cat fanciers…how something fits into the story.

Copyright 2023 Marie Asner