In a scene from “Jules” 2023, from left are Jane Curtin, Harriet Sansom Harris and Ben Kingsley. Courtesy of Bleeker Street

Finally, as we exit a murky June and July, a much-needed and heroic attempt to bring sweetness and light back to our new neighborhood screen arrives.

In an industry, that as we speak, is bereft of hope and heroics and full of spiders and atomic clouds, “Jules” lands in our pines and offers a modicum of something soft.

As a reviewer and critic who was born and raised in neighborhood movie houses in the 1930s, all of those ingredients, in the films of Capra, Lubitsch, LeRoy and King Vidor, peddled their hope-filled screenplays that got us all through the Depression and World War II.

Today, veteran director/producer Marc Turtletaub (“Little Miss Sunshine,” 2007) and writer Gavin Steckler (“Zach Stone is Gonna Be Famous,” 2013) have soft landed a craft at the Maine Film Center that embraces this old formula with their “Jules.”

We welcome the story of the three best movie senior citizens since 1974’s “Young Frankenstein,” in a midwest town full of seniors, three of whom welcome an intergalactic nonbinary visitor they decide to call “Jules” (Jade Quon, “Transformers: The Last Knight,” 2017; “The Last Airbender,” 2010; and “The Hunger Games,” 2012), and its broken spaceship to their neighborhood.

Last month, the Maine International Film Festival gave us a shout back to Steven Spielberg’s 1982 hit “E.T.” by bringing a large size “E.T.” and friends to our neighborhood on a big screen.


We first meet Milton, a 78-year-old retiree gracefully played by Sir Ben Kingsley (“Gandhi,” among others).

Milton, who attends the boring meetings of the city council each week, greets us with a perfect mid-American accent, and an early Einstein haircut and aging Mr. Rogers’ sweater.

Milton, a soft-speaking widower, lives alone, misses his late wife, and wastes nary a minute of his precious time on chatter.

Each week at the council meetings, he only speaks of a needed traffic light at a crosswalk, and requests a new description for the town. Each week, same words.

Milton has a daughter, Denise (Zoe Winters, “Succession”), who serves the town as a veterinarian and constantly encourages him to see a doctor to check on his fading memory.

Milton, to his annoyance and our delight, has two nosy, but kindly widowed neighbors, Joyce (SNL’s amazing veteran comic Jane Curtin) and Sandy (the great, accomplished Harriet Sansom Harris, agent to “Frazier.”)


Then, after introducing all the characters, we meet the essential ingredient, Jules.

Jules, as we are asked to know him, has crashed its errant spaceship into Milton’s azaleas.

Now we have our players. Brace yourself.

Apparently Steckler has conveniently placed Milton’s house and azaleas far enough away from Main Street to soften the arrival of said huge spaceship and its earthquake landing. Good.

The tiny nonbinary space person has no physical appendages, is neither green nor frightening, and happily does not speak at all.

Milton covers Jules with a table cloth and waits.


Hours later, his visitor awakens and seems unharmed and not frightened by Milton’s white skin, hair and sweater. And so our tale takes shape.

As we move forward, Joyce sings, at one point, a throaty, lusty ballad (Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” — it’s a show stopper) for the creature, who the group has decided to call Jules.

As the action progresses, Jules starts work on the spacecraft’s engine.

Oh! Did I mention that our Jules likes apples and has them at every meal? Just a thought.

It also starts drawing pictures that we learn are cats. If you’re a cat person, you’ll want to close your eyes when you learn why Jules needs them. Don’t ask. It’s one of the surprises.

I will tell you this. With Sir Kingsley, Jane Curtin singing a torrid song and Harriet Sansom Harris in the same room with a nonbinary apple-loving junkie sharing the screen for only 1 hour 30 minutes, you will exit Milton’s world happy.

“Jules” appears post MIFF at Maine Film Center on Aug. 11.


J.P. Devine of Waterville is a former stage and screen actor.

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