Picks and Pans Review: Julia and Julia

updated 02/08/1988 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/08/1988 01:00AM

The opening sequence of this film shows Kathleen Turner's adored husband, Gabriel (Gothic) Byrne, dying in an auto accident on their wedding day. Then, after a flash forward of a few years, she is driving along when she comes to a tunnel filled with fog. When she comes through the tunnel and goes home, she finds that not only is her husband alive, but they have a son who's 6. So has she entered the Twilight Zone, or suffered a bout of amnesia? No, it's worse. Turner has become stranded in that cinematic limbo known as A Very Enigmatic European Film. She is joined there by Sting, who plays a hyperintense photographer. But despite their presence and that of Byrne, an Irishman, this is basically an Italian production. That means there are lots of picturesque Italian landscapes and Adriatic sunsets. It also means there is a much greater tolerance for lack of plot resolution than there is when it comes to American movies. So it never really becomes clear whether or not Turner (portraying an American travel agent working in Trieste) has invented the car crash, or the son, or her affair with Sting, who also has a penchant for ripping off his girlfriends' underwear and making love to them behind pillars in the middle of crowded piazzas. To give the movie the benefit of a rather humongous doubt, it could be viewed as a very abstract speculation on the interplay between wishes and actions. Even those who go for that psychological sort of thing, however, will be hard put to keep their eyes from glazing over from time to time. Director Peter Del Monte, who was born in San Francisco but emigrated to Italy after World War II, at least has the good sense to keep Sting and Turner's faces—hardly the shabbiest mugs around—onscreen a lot of the time. But the things they are required to do and say often have a tail-chasing silliness to them. While the movie was shot on videotape, most people won't notice anything unusual about the quality of the image, if only because they will be too busy scratching their heads and just trying to figure out what's going on. (R)

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