Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
USA, 1977. Twentieth Century Fox. Screenplay by Alvin Sargent, based on the story Pentimento by Lillian Hellman. Cinematography by Douglas Slocombe. Produced by Richard Roth. Music by Georges Delerue. Production Design by Gene Callahan, Carmen Dillon, Willy Holt. Costume Design by Anthea Sylbert. Film Editing by Marcel Durham, Walter Murch. Academy Awards 1977. Golden Globe Awards 1977. National Board of Review Awards 1977. New York Film Critics Awards 1977.
Until writing her autobiographical book Pentimento, upon which this terrific drama is based, Lillian Hellman never included her childhood friendship with a World War II freedom fighter in any of her works. According to some, that might be because she made it up, but either way the highly entertaining story focuses on Hellman (a wonderful Jane Fonda) as she establishes herself as a successful playwright (The Children’s Hour, The Little Foxes) and reminisces about the title character (Vanessa Redgrave) with whom she was close as a young girl. Their relationship is rekindled when a now older Julia shows up and asks Lillian to do a brief but important favour for her that could help in the fight against Nazi Germany. Afterwards, Lillian must find out how to help her friend when she learns she might be in grave danger. One of the best drama-thrillers about the 1940s, and features the feature film debut of the marvelous Meryl Streep. Redgrave is as sensational as ever, while Jason Robards makes his mark as Hellman’s companion Dashiell Hammett.