A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Miss Julie is an adaptation of a play by August Strindberg; as with many play-based movies, there's far more talk than action. The title character (Jessica Chastain) is the spoiled daughter of a nobleman in 1880s Ireland who's become infatuated with a cultured servant (Colin Farrell). She orders him around while flirting and making plenty of suggestive demands, but they know that any kind of relationship is doomed. This period piece has little swearing or actual sex (just lots of sexual tension and an undercurrent of thwarted desire), but the wine flows freely, and there are some intense arguments.
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What's the story?
Over the course of a long midsummer's eve night in 1880s Ireland, MISS JULIE (Jessica Chastain) and John (Colin Farrell) flirt shamelessly, clearly attracted to each other, drawing ever closer. But it cannot be -- she's the baron's daughter, he's a servant in their household, and their interactions are all flavored by their unequal power dynamic. As they bristle under the strict class structure of their era, the hint of illicit interaction has already led to gossip in the village. Julie and John come up with a plot to run away together, but it's not clear whether either of them has the nerve to go through with it.
Is it any good?
The ferocity of Chastain's performance lifts Miss Julie somewhat -- as do, to a slightly lesser extent, the turns by Farrell and co-star Samantha Morton. But let's be honest: There's only so much an actor can do. Bound by a script and staging that give the movie a certain claustrophobia that stands up much better on stage than in celluloid, this overwrought drama doesn't quite take flight.
Despite its intimate setup -- there are only three characters -- it feels removed, with the feelings unfolding in every frame unable to mask a certain lack of groundedness. Watch it for the acting, but be prepared for your mind to wander. An August Strindberg play -- the original source material -- deserves more than this.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Miss Julie and John. Did their relationship have any chance, considering that her father's a nobleman and he's a servant? What does the movie have to say about social class?
Does this feel like a play or a movie? Can you tell that it's based on a stage play?
- In theaters: December 5, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: May 5, 2015
- Cast: Colin Farrell, Jessica Chastain, Samantha Morton
- Director: Liv Ullmann
- Studio: Wrekin Hill Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 129 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: mature thematic material involving sexuality, disturbing images, and language