August 08, 2009
Review - " Julie & Julia " - (in Theaters) By Roland Hansen
When she went on public TV the following year, narrating her cleaver work in that lofty sing-song voice, America fell in love.
Streep nails Child's mannerisms, of course, but so much more -- her sincerity and warmth, her gentleness and charm, her
patrician air and common touch. She is the one reason to see the film, and if you close your eyes during the chapters when
she is off camera, you will have a jolly time.
There's a distinct rift in charisma in "Julie and Julia," evident because it took me four paragraphs to mention Amy Adams,
who plays mousy Brooklynite Powell with unavoidable temperance. No offense to the actress or the real-life Powell she
portrays, but intermingling her life with Child's is akin to comparing and contrasting King Kong with Bonzo.
Certainly, those who have struggled to find identity and purpose can relate to Julie. She has a relatable existence and
invigorates it by documenting, on the internet, her preparation of 524 of Child's recipes in one year -- an undertaking more
brazen because, in 2002, few knew what a blog was. It's a fine, ambitious way to alleviate the ethereal pains of mundanity,
the product of a lousy job in a government phone bank. Unsurprisingly, the project greatly tests her husband Eric's (Chris
But if each character's mixture of vigor and magnetism was
poured into a measuring cup, Child's would overflow. Her
portion of the film begins in the late 1940s, when she and
husband Paul (Stanley Tucci), an apparently well-paid U.S.
government honcho, move to France.
Julia is not content to live the idle life of a socialite wife and
follows her passion to cooking school. Being the type to
ride a bicycle until the handlebars fall off, she excels in class
and works tirelessly to compile the truly epic recipe book,
961's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking."
So there's no debating which half of "Julie and Julia" is more
robust, more fun and more tasty. Child's booming persona
holds us in a tighter narrative grip; she mangles the French
language and chops onions with unrivaled conviviality. The
characterization allows us to comprehend why Powell is so
inspired by her.
Adams (Streep's costar in last years Dobut) captures the disenchanted Julie making her relatable, heroic, and exasperated
at the daunting task she's set up for herself. One particularly funny scene, played to aplomb by Adams,finds Julie at a
crossroads of humaneness towards the live lobsters she must boil and kill to re-create Child's Lobster Thermador. The
disaster of overcooking Child's most famous dish, boeuf bourguignon, also tugs at the heartstrings.
To Ephron's credit, her screenplay is focused on relatively strict timelines, which jump from Julie to Julia with relative
ease and are edited to allow extrapolation and character development without languishing too long or pandering to short
attention spans. But, frankly, Streep owns the movie so wholeheartedly, you'll barely notice such technicalities.
Julie and Julia floats along amiably, plasters a smile upon your face that doesn't leave for 123 minutes, and then vanishes
into the cinematic ether. Besides Streep’s captivating performance, the only thing that really sticks with you is the movie’s
treatment of its husbands. It’s completely different from almost any other romantic comedy you've ever seen, focusing not
on the dashing, handsome manly man who woos his lady with a big speech in the end, but on the contented happily ever
after. We frequently complain about how women are depicted in romantic comedies, but men are too often idealized, and
Julie and Julia provides a loving picture of two husbands who are supportive, grounding, encouraging, and content to
remain supporting characters in these womens’ lives.
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Julie & Julia
Directed by: Nora Ephron
Starring: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina
There's a larger-than-life gregariousness in the breathless,
high-drama gasp of her voice, the idiosyncratic pauses in
inflection. Sometimes it feels like an exaggeration, but it's not
necessarily bereft of depth or insight.
I'm describing Meryl Streep's portrayal of iconic chef/TV star Julia
Child, another wonderful, entertainingly chameleonic turn for the
actress, who provides "Julie and Julia" with its rich swirls of flavor
-- its joie de vivre, as the French might say. Occasionally,
Streep's body language is "spoken" so loudly, she skirts the hem
of over-the-topness. But it's as if she's outright daring us not to
be amused by the performance. She appears to be enjoying her
job immensely, to our benefit.
Without Streep, it might be harder to forgive the film for its
slightness. Writer/director Nora Ephron, in adapting the late
iconic cookbook author's memoir "My Life in France" and Julia
Powell's blog/book "Julie and Julia," creates easy parallels
between the lives of two women, separated by several decades,
but aligned, in some ways, in spirit. The film can be soft around
the edges, nearly filing its conflicts down to triteness, but is best
appreciated for its confectionery sweetness.
Streep doesn't just play the role of Julia Child - she BECOMES
Julia Child. Before there were celebrity chefs, before there was a
Food Network, there was Child, America's first foodie. Her 1961
bestseller "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" saved our
society from a dismal diet of TV dinners, casseroles and Jell-O
It’s not a difficult task for Paul Child, it seems. Julia Child,
or at least the version of her depicted in the movie,
would've been a woman any husband would have
wanted to please and support. The same couldn’t be
said for Julie, let’s just say thatwhen Julie acknowledges
in the movie that she doesn’t deserve her husband, I felt
myself nodding in agreement. The reality of their
relationship, unfortunately, casts a tiny pall over the
otherwise winsome proceedings.
In the end Ephron has created a near perfect soufflé
with "Julie & Julia." It's light where it needs to be, a little
heavy at others, but never overbaked. One criticism
would be that there were almost too many ingredients
that needed to be stuffed into a 127 minute film. In the
end, however, it's satisfying and perfect summer fare.
So, enjoy the film, and as Julia would say, bon appétit.