Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Julie and Julia. (they come as a pair.)

Julia Child has come back to life on the big screen this week, thanks to a stellar performance (does she give any other kind?) by Meryl Streep.

I went to see the movie, Julie & Julia, on its opening night last Friday, which had been eagerly anticipated by some, including the foodie with whom I watched it. (by the way, that foodie knows more about food...and words...than I could ever hope to learn. go check out her take on the movie.)

I don’t know if I would place myself in the “eagerly anticipated” category, but the film had Streep, which is never a bad thing; it had blogging as at least a secondary theme, a topic about which I know a fair amount; and it had food, which, while I can’t match the culinary skills of even a C- or D-list chef, I’m a big fan of eating.

So I was game for the movie.
And my two-word review: Great. Flick.

If you’ve seen even one or two of Child’s cooking shows, you’ll appreciate the skill with which Streep portrayed the legend. In a discussion after the movie, I predicted that Streep’s performance will earn her yet another Oscar nomination, but that there will be an as-yet-unseen role that may edge her out for the statue.

Take that opinion for what it’s worth, though, as I’ve been made aware of h
ow little I know about what makes a movie, um...good.

In reading a select few reviews of the movie, I became annoyed as I saw one critic in particular, A.O. Scott of the New York Times, dismiss Amy Adams’ role in the movie as basically unnecessary.

Adams plays Julie Powell, a young woman from Queens who takes on the challenge of cooking every recipe in Child’s classic book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in one year, and writing a blog about her experience.

Scott compares Adams’ acting ability to Streep’s, and Powell’s personality to Child’s, and concludes that the former are bland and lifeless when matched with the latter.

Can we please compare apples to apples here, and not apples to elephants?

Several commenters on Scott’s review agree with him, saying, “the movie didn’t need Julie.” Then might I suggest that when a movie titled, The Life and Souffl├ęs of Julia Child, is released, they buy their popcorn and go sit in the front row.

I may not be a big-shot movie critic for the Times, and I may only see a handful or fewer of movies in the theater each year, and maybe I just don’t get it.

But this movie needed both storylines, and both were entertaining and engaging.

Of course, Meryl Streep acted circles around everyone else in the movie, and of course, the highlight of the movie was Child’s larger-than-life persona. Isn’t that what we’d all expect as we sat in the theater, even before the previews rolled?

And, no, Adams probably shouldn’t spend her time sitting by the telephone, waiting for her own Oscar nod. But the Powell storyline was quite necessary, and her angst over creating 534 recipes in 365 days, along with her excitement of watching a fledgling blog take off and gain a readership, added plenty to the movie.

Go see this movie. Enjoy perhaps the greatest actress of her generation as she portrays such a wild and wonderful personality. But don’t snooze or take a bathroom break during the Julie scenes, or you just might miss something.

I’ll say it again: Great. Flick.

“The only time to eat diet food
is while you’re waiting for
the steak to cook.”
—Julia Child
(photo via metronews)

4 comments:

  1. thanks for the link love, yo.

    great post!!!

    i agree--both stories are necessary, and i think anyone who fails to see that is missing the point of the story/movie. to me, it's about influence and parallels, and, above all, about women making bold decisions to claim/reclaim a traditional domestic art and then transform it, through writing (perhaps the most powerful medium), to change others' lives, whether the men in their lives or the whole world.

    while julie's influence is most decidedly *not* as culture-shifting as julia's was, one could make the claim that blogging in general is most decidedly culture-shifting...and julie was an earlyish blogger...

    (oh dear. i'm getting professorial. i'm going to stop commenting now before i start problematizing things...) ;)

    (and that's a swell citation:)

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  2. We saw this as well and I enjoyed it tremendously. The stories were related and intertwined and both were necessary to balance the experience.

    Streep is my favorite actress, and she was brilliant. But we saw Julia through the eyes of Julie, her biggest fan. Her over the top performance was tempered (note the use of the cooking term..) by the down to earth portrayal of Julie. Without Julie, Streep's Julia would have been too much, too big - the contrast was what made the movie so enjoyable.

    SB

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  3. I am enjoying reading all the reviews of Julie and Julia including the lengthy review in the current issue of Time magazine.

    It is time to stop reading and head for the cinema.

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  4. When you write that Streep was the greatest actress of her generation, I second the motion. When I saw "A Cry in the Dark" 20 or so years ago, I had a sudden thought: I have never, ever, seen an American actor do the Australian accent as well as she. She can do anything.

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