In 'Julia,' All the World's a Stage ; Annette Bening Acts out a Midlife Crisis in 'Being Julia.'

Article excerpt

Actors face a hurdle as they get older, with only a few managing to sustain careers as they head into middle age and beyond. For actresses it's even harder - which makes the enduring success of celebrities such as Meryl Streep all the more impressive.

And of course Annette Bening, who's now negotiating the transition from fresh, youngish star to mature, seasoned star. Her new movie, "Being Julia," is a perfect vehicle for this artistic journey, since it lets her play a dazzling actress who's coping with the same challenge, both on and off the stage.

Based on "Theatre," a touching and funny W. Somerset Maugham novel, "Being Julia" centers on a star of the London stage in the late 1930s. She's been married to her manager for years but they've long been more affectionate than passionate toward each other.

Starting to fear the onset of middle age in both public and private life, Julia lets herself flirt with a much younger fan, then falls in love with him. Also in the picture is a young actress who could become a professional rival, and perhaps a romantic one as well. …