Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Movie Review: Julie and Julia

Requester: ALR

One word of advice. If you go see Julie and Julia, make sure to have something to munch on during the movie. From the moment Meryl Streep begins eating as the deliciously whimsical Julia Child, your taste buds will burn for what’s on the screen. Aside from nailing the signature Julia Child accent, Streep also seems to tap into the essence of Julia Child—she captures the joy and sense of fulfillment that Child experienced while cooking. Watching Streep act in this film is a true joy and definitely makes the movie worth the price of admission. The journey of Julia Child from frustrated housewife to published author is a heartwarming, funny tale brilliantly acted by Streep with support from Stanely Tucci as Child’s devoted husband. As an added bonus, the film is pretty much an advertisement for Child’s book. I’m already thinking about how I can add more of Julia Child’s cooking to my daily regime. Beef Bourguignon, here I come.

Unfortunately (or better said, less fortunately), there’s another tale being told here. Amy Adams plays Julie Powell, a frustrated employee of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. In order to add some meaning to her life, she decides to cook her way through Julia Child’s iconic work, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. 524 recipes. 365 days. Whereas Child’s half of the story is filled with nuance, humor, and passion, Powell’s journey is overstuffed with obvious metaphor, platitudinous dialogue, and the story is sadly undercooked (COOKING PUNS FOR EVERYONE). I do not attribute this to the actors. Adams is perfectly charming as Julie and Chris Messina is endearing as Powell’s husband. Rather, Powell’s background is poorly explained. The movie seems to fast forward through her decision to write this blog. Instead of focusing on what makes Powell tick—why is she so drawn to Child, what specifically makes her want to cook, what exactly happened with her previous writing experiences—the movie glosses over these points with just a line or two. Then, we’re left with a slightly neurotic woman who makes awkward proclamations about how much she loves Julia Child. It all seemed odd to me, but would have easily been fine with more exposition.

To that end, I spent half of the movie enjoying Julia Child and the other half wishing Julia would come back. I remember sighing and groaning when the movie made match-on-action cuts from Julia’s bed sheet to Julie’s bed sheet and I realized I was no longer with Streep. Oh, by the way, the matching sheets are a metaphor. The film makes it extremely obvious that Julie feels she has a connection with Child. I’m going to say something that might seem edgy, but I have to. I think the film might have hammered the metaphor in a bit too hard. I guess they wanted to make sure that any infants in the audience got the message.

I acknowledge that this review, up until this point, has seemed overly negative. However, (as you may realize now) I get really frustrated when good pieces of entertainment make small mistakes that prevent them from being amazing. Overall, Julie and Julia is a very enjoyable film and it has many humorous moments. I may seem hard on the Julie storyline, but it is not as dreary as I make it sound. It has many charming moments and the acting is quite good. Nevertheless, it has the distinct misfortune of being paired alongside a very strong, heartwarming story with Meryl Streep at the helm. I will be as bold as to say that these stories do need each other to function. An entire Julia Child biopic may have not been as successful as Julie and Julia. However, when I feel like one story line makes me groan and the other makes me giggle, I’m dealing with an uneven project. They probably could have let Julie’s story bake a little longer. OBVIOUS PUN!

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

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