Julianne Moore has been taking off her clothes a lot lately. As a model for Bulgari it’s her job. Honestly, I can’t figure out what gratuitous nudity and lion cubs have to do with overpriced handbags, but Julianne is very good at it.

However, even though I’m sure the Italian jeweler and luxury goods retailer is paying Julianne a ridiculous amount of money, I believe doing the ads was a big mistake. Why? It makes people forget how good an actress she is.

After all, that’s what beautiful women with IQs smaller than their shoe sizes usually do in movies: take off their clothes, go out with ugly guys old enough to be their fathers, or become lunch meat for serial killers. It’s an unfair but pervasive assumption that equates lovely and talented actresses to plastic bimbos like Megan Fox.

But Julianne has had an impressive career. The Kids Are Alright is wonderful and her appearances on “30 Rock” are hilarious. Yes, there’s been a few missteps. Julianne has either been miscast (The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Hannibal), or stuck playing another variation of her sad, fragile, and sexually-frustrated housewife/single mom character (The Hours, The End of The Affair, Far From Heaven, Boogie Nights, Magnolia). No, it’s not entirely her fault. It’s how the game of gender politics is played in Hollywood.

Nicholson, DeNiro, and Pacino, for example, haven’t played characters other than themselves for years, but whenever they feel like being actors again, the roles will be waiting for them. It’s called having a choice. Meanwhile, because of the table scraps Hollywood feeds them, too many actresses are starving to death.

Clive Owen and Julianne Moore in Children of Men.
Clive Owen and Julianne Moore in Children of Men.
Still, let’s not forget that when she’s not doing junk or parading merrily about in her birthday suit, Julianne Moore is a formidable actress. In Children of Men (one of my favorite movies), Julianne had a role that was commensurate with her talent.

It’s 2027, the Earth is a toxic, foul-smelling garbage can, terrorists are blowing things up and nobody has given birth to a child in eighteen years. Theo (Clive Owen) is an ex-activist who’s now a bitter, gin-soaked bureaucrat and all he wants to do with the rest of his life is, as the Pink Floyd song put it, get “comfortably numb”. But his ex-wife Julian, a guerrilla soldier hunted by the government, unexpectedly reappears and wants Theo to join her on a deadly and mysterious mission.

Julian, as played by Julianne Moore, is a very important plot construct because she has to convince us that this cynical drunkard would be willing to risk his life. Theo’s decision has to be logical. In a bad movie, a bad script would compel him do it just to move the narrative along. If it doesn’t make sense, it feels emotionally off-key to the audience and the film won’t work. Does Theo tell Julian to “Bugger Off”? No. Amazingly, besides getting Theo to agree, I was ready to pack my own suitcase and join them because Julianne made me believe in Julian. Yeah, she’s that good.

A less-talented actress could have easily turned Julian into a dull, placidly-smiling and romanticized saint who walked on water or a shrill, bromide-spouting G.I. Jane, but no, Julianne doesn’t do that. Instead, Julianne invests her character with compassion, wit, strength, mischief, poignancy and wisdom. This is a mature and heartbreaking performance that only a woman could deliver, not a little girl.

In less than fifteen minutes of time on screen, Julianne gives us a lifetime. It’s breathtaking.

Now that’s sexy.

Culture Julianne Moore Isn’t Just a Prop in a Bulgari Ad, She’s a...