Julianne Moore, actress of our times, in ‘When You Stop Saving the World’

eisenberg, moore, courtesy variety studio at cannes

Some guys have all the luck. Take Jesse Eisenberg, for example. As an actor he has inherited the mantle of stammering Jewish neurotic as a surrogate for Woody Allen, who is now in retreat. In his feature-film directorial debut, “When You Stop Saving the World,” he has a marvelous motor to his somewhat schematic movie: it’s the presence of the impeccable actress, Julianne Moore, in the lead role.

“She’s the greatest in the world,” Eisenberg told Variety of casting Moore. “I mean, that’s an objective statement of fact — not my, you know, unique fetish.”

“When You Stop Saving the World” (however germane, that title is so clumsy), which goes into release in January 20, is a social drama enacting family dysfunction so commonplace as to be occurring in homes across the nation at this writing. A do-gooder parent, Evelyn (Julianne Moore), has constructed a life so righteous and pure that, in doing so, she left her quirky-and-challenged 17-year-old son Ziggy (Finn Wolfhard) to fend for himself. That he bravely tries to do behind a slammed-shut bedroom door. An internet songster, he chirps angsty songs, on-line, to a flock of streaming girl-fans, mostly in China, who think he is the bee’s knees. But in person, at high school, he’s a screaming social flop. Ziggy hasn’t fit into Evelyn’s plan. So she avoids him, and he feels it, as she escapes to a place where she has more control, in her job as director of a battered women’s shelter. Zooming across town in her environmentally friendly electric car she streams classical music to smooth the gaps of a jigsaw-puzzle life that won’t fit together. By night, she gulps red wine. Moore plays this character on the knife’s edge, giving glimpses of the caring soul she used to be and the cut-throat liar she has become. I loved the performance. She’s morally ambiguous, and I enjoyed watching that.

I recently ran across Moore on Netflix in What Maisie Knew (2012) in which she plays yet another self absorbed, self-righteous narcissist. She is such a marvelous actress and it’s good to keep on top of her work.

Arts journalist Debra Levine founded artsmeme in 2008.

When You Stop Saving the World | in release January 20

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