At the weekly Boonton, PA city council meeting, the same three senior citizens take the microphone, but only Milton Robinson (Ben Kingsley) makes the exact same request – to change the city slogan from ‘a great place to call home’ (because he believes people will mistakenly try to call Boonton on the phone) and to put a crosswalk on a certain street.  So when he suddenly adds the fact that a UFO landed in his backyard and took out his azaleas, the same eyes roll except for Sandy’s (Harriet Sansom Harris, a "Licorice Pizza" MVP), the lonely widow who offers to drive him home and will name the honest-to-God alien in his house “Jules.”

Laura's Review: B

If you watch the trailer for “Jules,” you might come away thinking it’s a twee spin on “E.T.” with old folks protecting the alien instead of a bunch of kids and in some ways, it is that, but that would also be selling director Marc Turtletaub’s ("Puzzle") film short.  “Jules,” which is dedicated to Turtletaub’s dad, is about aging, loss, loneliness and acceptance, its solemn, unspeaking little alien the perfect creature for the unheard to project their fears, desires and regrets upon.

Wearing a gray wig and glasses that accentuate his eyes, Kingsley’s Martin is a creature of habit, but one who’s behavior has begun to concern his veterinarian daughter Denise (Zoë Winters, HBO's 'Succession').  When a bright light and loud noise awakens him at 12:53 a.m., Martin is astonished to find a large, silver saucer in his garden, but a call to 911 goes about how you’d expect.  When he calls Denise, he fails to hear her message that her mailbox is full, telling her that he is afraid and does not know what to do.

The next day as TV news reporters chatter about a search for a crashed weather satellite, Martin ventures out into his garden and is shocked to find a little gray humanoid figure (stuntwoman Jade Quon) lying on his flagstones.  He covers it with a blanket and leaves a glass of water by its hand.  The next day, finding the pitiful creature huddled at the bottom of his stairs, he waves it inside, where he assures the visitor it will be warmer.  After making a ham and cheese sandwich and slicing an apple, Martin discovers his guest prefers the fruit and rushes to the local market to buy more, telling the clerk they are for the alien in his home.  This news is relayed to Denise, who stops by her dad’s to insist he see a doctor, but she doesn’t come inside.  That will be left to Sandy, who practically jumps out of her skin, shrieking an uncharacteristic F word upon sighting Martin’s guest sitting on his living room sofa.  Quickly determining it poses no threat, Sandy insists it remain a secret (the movies have shown what happens to innocent aliens), names it Jules and brings over an old t-shirt of her daughter’s declaring ‘I’m not a lesbian but my girlfriend is,’ to cover its presumed, if seemingly sexless, nudity.  Before these two can help Jules, who’s been working on its ship and drawing pictures of cats for Martin, their secret will be discovered by Joyce (Jane Curtin), their fellow city council attendee who they reluctantly bring on board.

Not only does writer Gavin Steckler evoke E.T. with Milton’s objection to Boonton’s slogan and Government Men in Black, but also references TV’s ‘Alf’ with an odd alien use for cats.  More coincidentally, “Jules” may be becoming part of a trend following last year’s “Linoleum,” which also used space travel as a means to comment on dementia, aging and regrets.  While the movie has moments of silly fun, it also explores parental regrets about children who have distanced themselves, lost youth and fear of losing one’s cognitive function.  Kingsley utilizes a matter-of-fact obliviousness for Martin to deal with Jules that also hints at his failing grasp of reality, but it is Sansom Harris who brings the emotion, confessing her hurt to Jules who ends up protecting her in a surprising way.  Curtin is the weakest link here, playing a little too broadly.  Winters adds comforting stability and familial connection.

“Jules” is an unexpectedly sweet film about elderly singletons uniting with shared purpose and finding both earthly and inter-galactic support in the bargain.

Robin's Review: B

Milton (Ben Kingsley), a widower, lives his life alone in his house in a small Pennsylvania town. He attends the city council meetings regularly, voicing the same ignored suggestions week after week. Then an alien spaceship crashes in his yard with its occupant alive. The old man’s daily routine is upended, just a little bit, with the arrival of “Jules.”

Obvious to me, director Marc Turtletaub and writer Gavin Steckler have both seen, and borrowed heavily from, Steven Spielberg’s 1982 blockbuster hit, “E.T., The Extraterrestrial.” They also seem to be fond of the 2011 alien comedy, “Paul.” It would be easy, and incorrect, to say that “Jules” is just a retelling of “E.T.”

What it is, is the story of aging and losing control of one’s life as forgotten beings that the system has turned its back on. Milton is bent on staying in the house he and his lost wife called their “home.” But she is gone, the kids grew up and left the nest and Milton and his son have not spoken in years. Plus, the early stages of dementia worry his daughter.

Denise (Zoe Winters) is a local veterinarian and helps her dad with the bills and his day-to-day needs. What she really wants, though, if for Milton to get a check up and, hopefully, agree to move into assisted living. But, Milton has his routines and is loath to give up the life he knows. Then, the spaceship crashes and the alien inhabitant, dubbed “Jules,” enters his life.
Now, one might think the story is going to involve secret government agencies and agents in dark glasses holding radios giving chase to Milton and his new best friend, Jules. Again, the story does not go that way, not quite.

Another aging neighbor, Sandy (Harriet Sansom Harris) knows that Milton is up to something – at the last council meeting he voiced his usual complaints and suggestions, and then adds “an alien spaceship handed in my yard and crushed my azalea bed.” Of course, no one pays him any attention but Sandy’s curiosity is brought to high alert.

Another nosey neighbor, Joyce (Jane Curtain), also finds out about Jules and the three make a pact to protect their new friend from harm. So, yeah, it is a copy of “E.T.” without the mega-budget, but it is foremost a statement on how the elderly are treated in America. Once they have fulfilled their life’s potential, they are relegated to second-class citizenship and warehoused in “assisted living facilities” and forgotten.

Here, we have three elderly people who have found that society has taken their “voice” away and decide to defy the norm and make the most of their lives. Where E.T. appealed to the kids of the time, “Jules” appeals to us old folk who refuse to be ignored.

Bleecker Street opens "Jules" in theaters on 8/11/23.