August 11th, 2023
STARRING: BEN KINGSLEY, HARRIET SANSOM HARRIS, ZOE WINTERS, JANE CURTIN
DIRECTED BY: MARC TURTLETAUB
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
In the past few years, the conversations on if alien life does exist have grown larger. Reports from Congress about UFOs certainly have everyone talking but as the saying goes, “‘I’ll believe it when I see it”. The new independent comedy Jules is about an elderly man, living in a small town of Pennsylvania, who has a UFO crash into his garden. It’s the kind of town where something like this could happen and nobody even notices. When the visitor– who becomes known as Jules– makes their way onto the back porch, they eventually become a guest, sitting on the couch, eating apples, and never saying a word. The new friend is a welcomed presence, giving the old man a purpose that he desperately needed, in a comedy that is cute, sweet, and a little too slight to leave a major impact.
The elderly man is Milton Robinson (Ben Kingsley), a lonely man since his wife passed away, his son lives on the west coast, and his daughter Denise (Zoe Winters) is the only person checking in on him. He goes once a week to the town hall meetings to voice his grievances about the safety in the neighborhood. There needs to be a crosswalk. There are not enough street lights at night. The other two elderly folks at the meeting are Joyce (Jane Curtin) and Sandy (Harriet Sansom Harris), the only other two that stand up to voice their issues. Every week the same complaints, that is, until Milton says a UFO crashed into his garden, and instead of anyone believing him, they just assume that Milton is truly losing it.
Jules is directed by Marc Turtletaub, whose last film Puzzle was an absolutely charming affair, about a lonely housewife that finds comfort in a friend through puzzle competitions. In his follow-up, he is shooting for more of that charm, but the screenplay by Gavin Steckler only keeps the charm on the surface. Where the sweetness comes from is the innocence of Milton and another tip-top performance from Kingsley. It is also elevated in the adorable and simple friendships between the three elderly characters. If there is a message received across the story it is that elderly people have much to say and we must always listen.
The alien itself is an odd presence and the fact that it never speaks leaves you wanting much more. It’s a character that is as frigid as outer space. Small in stature, an all-gray glob, with inverted ears, and a body that looks like molded clay. As the narrative progresses it becomes sweet to see Milton and the alien bonding. Watching game shows on TV and enjoying a snack. But that nearly repeats itself too much creating a build-up that never releases. It’s not until the third act, that it becomes evident that the alien needs cats for food or energy on their ship, which is a funny scenario, but it ultimately amounts to very little.
One of the major points of Jules is to be a story about the elderly and for the elderly. Where it lacks in narrative heft, it recovers with a harmless approach, and a trio of friendly performances. It fits in the bin with movies like A Man Called Otto, The Miracle Club, or The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, as movies that give an escape for viewers of a certain age. That’s not a bad thing. Jules is cute. Viewers will get a few laughs and feel good leaving the theater. It’s a nice thing…but it’s just not out of this world.
JULES IS PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS FRIDAY AUGUST 11TH, 2023.
2 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady