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Annette Bening puts her early theatrical training to good use in this glossy period piece (based on W. Somerset Maugham's novella “Theatre”) about a capricious, spoiled stage diva who thrives on intrigue and adulation. When she needs more than she's getting from her husband (an excellent Jeremy Irons), handsome admirer (Bruce Greenwood), slavish producer (Miriam Margolyes), and long-suffering dresser (Juliet Stevenson, with a nod and a wink to Thelma Ritter in All About Eve), she takes a young American lover (Shaun Evans, the one weak link in a cast directed by Istvan Szabo). Once Julia, a consummate user, realizes she herself is being used, she sets into motion a sting that culminates where she's most at home: the stage. Witty, satisfying, and a terrific showcase for the radiant Bening. R, 105 min.

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