JULIE & JULIA
** (out of 5)
August 7, 2009
Meryl Streep as JULIA CHILD
Amy Adams as JULIE POWELL
Stanley Tucci as PAUL CHILD
Chris Messina as ERIC POWELL
Linda Emond as SIMONE BECK
Helen Carey as LOUISETTE BERTHOLLE
Mary Lynn Rajskub as SARAH
Jane Lynch as DOROTHY MCWILLIAMS
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Directed by: Nora Ephron
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
You probably shouldn’t read this review. I’m just not the best judge of Nora Ephron’s new film “Julie & Julia.”
You see, I have never been a big fan of either Nora Ephron the director or Meryl Streep the actor. I know these two are darlings of the American cinema, and I acknowledge their many talents. I just don’t go ga-ga over them the way a lot of people do. (On the contrary, I simply adore Amy Adams… just not in this movie.)
There are a lot of things about “Julie & Julia” that are fantastically done and beautifully constructed. But it’s simply not my cup of tea, and as movies go, I found it painful to watch.
The film tells the story of a woman named Julie Powell (Amy Adams), who is suffering through a thankless government job in New York. Her big escape is to lose herself in cooking when she gets home. Her personal hero is Julia Child, so she embarks on an experiment. With the help of her husband, Julie sets up a blog that will chronicle her cooking all the recipes in Julia Child’s groundbreaking cookbook over the course of a year. In the process, she becomes a bit of an internet celebrity, even though this challenge causes strains at work and in her marriage.
Woven into the story of Julie Powell is a biopic about Julia Child (Meryl Streep), an American woman who lives in Paris and wants to bring the art of French cooking to the English-speaking world. The film chronicles how Child went from being a bored housewife to a culinary icon in the U.S.
There is a definite audience for “Julie & Julia.” I’m just not it. People like my mother and my cousin Bev are going to eat this movie up. They’ll adore Amy Adams’ performance, and they’ll love watching the history of Julia Child unfold on screen.
I, however, was bored. Bored, bored, bored, bored, bored. The acting is excellent, and the composition of the film is quite well done. But I struggled to stay awake.
The Julie Powell storyline got in its own way. The challenges in the kitchen became a metaphor for the challenges in her marriage. However, like Nora Ephron usually does in his films (e.g., Bill Pullman’s character in “Sleepless in Seattle” and the final resolution of “You’ve Got Mail”), there is no passion and the end result is utterly pedantic. Even when Julie Powell hits a huge road block with her husband, there is no real threat. It’s just a lot of whining and hand-wringing, which I found tiresome.
Contrasted with the humdrum existence of Julie Powell, the story of Julia Child has more pizzazz, but it plays out in a predictable and mundane fashion. Meryl Streep embodies Julia Child on screen, but it just seems silly. The performance reminded me of Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Toby Jones, each playing Truman Capote. The real Truman Capote was such a flamboyant character that their startling accurate performances seemed like caricatures.
Meryl Streep gives a bang-up performance, but it’s hard to watch without thinking it’s an extended SNL sketch.
My feelings about “Julie & Julia” are similar to the buzz-worthy indie film “(500) Days of Summer,” which a lot of people are adoring, but I just thought was so-so.
But then again, I’m not the guy this movie was made for.