Thursday, August 10, 2023

An alien visits a small town


    Sporting gray hair and looking disoriented, Ben Kingsley stars in Jules, a quirk-filled story about Milton, a 78-year-old small-town resident whose life is upended when a flying saucer lands in his backyard. 
    A regular attendee at city council meetings, Milton seems both obsessive and forgetful.  He can make eyes roll by repeatedly insisting that the town's motto is misleading: "A great place to call home."  His suggestion: "A great place to refer to as home."
    Truth be told, Milton's hometown doesn't look like a great place to do much of anything.
    But about that flying saucer ...
    The craft not only smashes into Milton's backyard, it brings an alien visitor into Milton's life. 
   At first, it seems as if director Marc Turtletaub, working from a screenplay by Gavin Steckler, might be charting Milton's descent in the uncharted space of dementia. His daughter (Zoe Winters) suspects that Dad might be slipping.
  But the flying saucer is no hallucination, and Milton slowly develops a relationship with its sole occupant, the Jules of the title. 
   Clad in a suit that makes her look like a cartoon version of an alien, Jade Quon plays Jules, a visitor who never speaks but develops a rapport with Milton and with two local women (Harriet Sansom Harris and Jane Curtin). The women become Milton's co-conspirators as he tries to protect the alien from the town's residents and from threatening government agents.
    Turtletaub adds odd touches, one of them a macabre suggestion that the spacecraft needs dead cats to refuel and continue its journey. Don't ask.
     Jules didn't strike me as Kingsley's kind of movie and I wasn't sure what Turtletaub was after. A mild assurance that older folks needn't be imprisoned by loneliness and habit? A reminder that connections still can be made?
     Whatever Turtletaub had in mind, Jules struck me as a bit of a drag. Or, to be more precise, a mildly eccentric drag.

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