What a month aliens are having! If Marc Turtletaub’s Jules had debuted any other time of year, it might not have resonated nearly as loudly. But as it stands, it premiers amongst a swirl of government hearings that may make some believe, more than ever, that we are not alone in the universe. Spielberg wishes he had this kind of publicity for E.T. Jules provides a welcome vision for skeptics and believers alike.
Ben Kingsley stars as Milton Robinson, a melancholy widower going through the motions in a quiet Pennsylvania town. He attends town halls, watches tv, and tends to his garden. The only break in his routine seems to be occasional visits from his daughter, Denise (Zoë Winters). A son is mentioned, but only barely.
Then a UFO crashes in Milton’s backyard.
After unsuccessfully trying to raise the alarm, Milton gets to know his new neighbor, the silent creature (Jade Quon) who is eventually given the titular name. The alien eventually comes to greatly influence Milton, along with two other women who regularly attend the town hall (Harriet Sansom Harris and Jade Quon) Silent and largely immobile, the alien serves as a blank canvas upon which the others broadcast their hopes, questions, and fears.
As compared to our current media environment, Jules’ vision of our interaction with aliens is refreshing delightful, if not a little far-fetched. Nobody seems particularly threatened by the alien, nor the alien by them. In fact, calm would be the best way to sum up reactions on both sides. While there are some darker themes that emerge throughout the film, they are brief. At its core, this is a sweet and thoughtful film.
The performances are universally warm and thoughtful. Kingsley’s Milton is too gruff at first, but quickly reveals layers. He blossoms as his discovery brings new people into his life. Harriet Sansom Harris is a marvel as Sandie, radiating a warmth tinged with sadness. Jane Curtin’s comedic timing continues to age like a fine wine.
Jules is a perfect film for today’s fascination with the idea of aliens. Everyone is looking at the news and asking “What’s out there?”. Jules’ introspective focus answers that big question, but also suggests that it is what’s going on inside us that continues to matter the most.
*Winner: Audience Award – 2023 Sonoma International Film Festival*
Directed by Marc Turtletaub (Puzzle)
Written by Gavin Steckler (“Review”)
Starring: Ben Kingsley (Gandhi, Schindler’s List), Harriet Sansom Harris (Licorice Pizza), Zoe Winters (“Succession”), Jade Quon (Transformers: The Last Knight) and Jane Curtin (“3rd Rock From the Sun”)
Produced by Debbie Liebling, p.g.a., Andy Daly, Michael B. Clark, p.g.a., Alex Turtletaub, p.g.a., and Marc Turtletaub, p.g.a.
JULES will open in the following Los Angeles theaters next Friday, August 11:
AMC The Americana 18
322 Americana Way, Glendale, CA 91210
AMC Century City 15
10250 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90067
AMC Citywalk Stadium 19
100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608
AMC The Grove 14
189 The Grove Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90036
Regal Sherman Oaks
15301 Ventura Boulevard, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403