REVIEW: Julie & Julia

29 07 2009

Yum.

According to Julie Powell, that word shouldn’t be used while eating.  But as America begins to devour “Julie & Julia,” I can’t help but think that audiences will use that word.  The movie is a delectable treat, serving a luxurious two-course meal: the story of Julia Child (Meryl Streep) before she became the published and televised chef that we know, and Julie Powell (Amy Adams) as she battles the boring world of bureaucracy by baking all 524 recipes in Child’s cookbook.

I do have to give the movie (and Julie Powell, more specifically) a great deal of credit – her blog, “The Julie and Julia Project,” is the inspiration for this blog.  At the beginning, Julie is struggling to find some purpose holed up inside her cubicle, forced to drone on and on about the company’s policies.  She envies her rich “friends,” who are writing cover stories for top New York newspapers and blogs because they seem to have found merit in their lives.  Much like movies are a constant source of comfort to me, Julie found solace in cooking.  And one day, she proclaims to her husband, “I can write a blog.  I have thoughts.”  As I have quickly discovered, it really only takes that little spark of inspiration to start something great (at least in Julie’s case … the verdict is still out on me).

It is really Julie’s story that captivated me the most.  As she works her way through 524 recipes in 365 days (some simple, others quite daunting), anyone who has ever stepped into the kitchen for therapeutic reasons can instantly relate to her struggles and successes.  Adams really is the heart and soul of the movie; she brings a pleasant charm to the role, but she also shows a more raw and emotional side than we are used to seeing from her.

Julia’s life in Paris is very amusing, too, much thanks to Meryl Streep’s amazing acting.  She completely masters the persona of the larger-than-life personality and woman – but to anyone that has seen Streep’s work, this is hardly a surprise.  I fully expect another Oscar nomination for Streep for this role.  However, Julia’s story started to become distinctly more dull in the second act of the movie, due in part not to faulty acting, directing, or writing, but rather to Julia Child herself.  At the beginning of her time in Paris, her story is more of a fish-out-of-water comedy; after she graduates Le Cordon Bleu academy, her story becomes about a fish in a big pond as she tries to publish her cookbook and impart her secrets to the “servantless” Americans.

Director and screenwriter Nora Ephron (“Sleepless in Seattle,” “You’ve Got Mail”) masterfully weaves together these two women’s stories, although I felt that the script begins to lose the connection between the two women as the film concludes.  Ephron has for years made movies that are just plain entertaining to watch, and “Julie & Julia” is no different.  The movie is a sweet treat that will be gobbled up by hungry moviegoers for years to come.  As Julia Child would say, “Bon Appetit!”  A- / 3halfstars

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6 responses

4 08 2009
jshady

I can understand your interest in Amy Adams’ character more, since you clearly outlined that she influenced you and this blog. But I thought the movie painted Powell in an awkward and sometimes creepy light.

For a different take on “Julie & Julia” check out my blog: http://theblarg.wordpress.com/2009/08/04/quick-movie-review-julie-julia/

4 08 2009
mls4615

I admired Adams for her willingness to portray Powell in such a way. At sometimes, it was a little awkward (although I wouldn’t say creepy), but I thought that really helped to paint Powell as a normal person.

The beginning of Julia’s life in Paris delivers the majority of the film’s memorable moments, but it became too dull in the second half that I was able to slip into the vortex of my thoughts (mainly manifested in the blog). Powell stays consistently fun to watch throughout the movie, whether she succeeds or fails.

12 09 2009
Professor Rosseforp

“thanks to Meryl Streep’s amazing acting … She completely masters the persona of the larger-than-life personality and woman – but to anyone that has seen Streep’s work, this is hardly a surprise”.
Having seen many of her films, from The French Lieutenant’s Woman, to Heartburn, Out of Africa, Azaria and Mamma mia and many others — I would be completely surprised if Ms Streep were able to master a role. Like many others, I have never seen the attraction, find her mannerisms affected and irritating, her accents unconvincing (and malleable) and I avoid her films like the plague!
Yes she has won Oscars, but many of us scratch our heads and say, “It must be an American thing!”

13 09 2009
Marshall

Professor –
I will agree with you that sometimes her movements are awkward. But in “Julie & Julia,” we will have to agree to disagree. I recently watched an old Julia Child cooking show on PBS (the only thing on while I was exercising, don’t judge me), and Streep absolutely nailed the performance. These “mannerisms” which get under your skin are exactly what made Julia Child so lovable; she was a normal woman who was often bumbling in the kitchen and made mistakes. Creating your own character is one thing but inhabiting someone who actually existed is entirely another. Not to mention she was playing someone well-known to millions of Americans who watched her on a regular basis. It would be inappropriate for Streep to change Child to make her more “poised.” And as for the accent, they sound very much alike to my ear.

Surprisingly, I haven’t seen Meryl’s two Oscar-winning roles. But from what I have seen of her films, I see the reason why she is one of the most venerated actresses of our generation. But to humor you, perhaps you ought to check out this article:

http://www.theonion.com/content/opinion/name_one_masterpiece_of_cinema

Sounds like something you might agree with.

14 09 2009
Professor Rosseforp

Marshall, I had a good laugh over that article — it is right on the money!
Regarding Ms Streep’s portrayal of Julia Child (I have no idea who she is or the role she plays in American tv culture) — when an actress plays a real character, I hope she is able to “inhabit” that character rather than do a clever impersonation. Helen Mirren playing Queen Elizabeth 2 springs to mind. I find Helen Mirren has substituted mannerisms for acting in recent years, but there is a sense in this film that she is not impersonating the Queen, and is trying to see and interpret the character as an actress can. I haven’t heard Meryl Streep’s accent in this film, and was commenting generally on her much-lauded ability with accents — yet you can still get a good laugh amongst any Australians with Meryl Streep’s “A dingo’s got my baby” line, which brought the house down when the film was shown in Australia.

14 09 2009
Marshall

To answer your question regarding Child’s role in American culture, she was the first real television cooking personality. She was significant because she brought her knowledge of French cooking and made it easy for Americans to learn. She was also loved for her willingness to make mistakes, and she often made them on her show. In the show that I watched, Child touched a plate, screamed, and explained that she had forgotten that it was scalding hot.

I found this video documenting some of Meryl Streep’s accents; it doesn’t directly compare her to Child though:

This video does, however:

I actually was not a fan of Helen Mirren in “The Queen.” Maybe it was just my overall disliking of the film that affected the way I viewed Mirren’s performance. In my opinion, Kate Winslet in “Little Children” was far superior. If you haven’t seen that, you need to:
https://marshallandthemovies.wordpress.com/2009/08/21/filmweek1/

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