Julie & Julia

Posted August 6, 2009 in Film

When you’re a 6’2” icon, it’s hard for anyone to cut you down to size. And so Julia Child emerges from this biopic as fabulously as a five-layer gâteau au chocolat. Here—and in real life—the woman was a marvel; her appetite for life was unparalleled. As played by Meryl Streep (in her third great camp role after The Devil Wears Prada and Doubt), she clomps around in heavy heels like a woman still learning to use her legs and loves her wee diplomat husband Paul (Stanley Tucci) with a lust Hollywood rarely accords the over-30. Clearly, Queens newlywed Julie (Amy Adams) is going to have a hard time measuring up. The famous story is that in 2003, the year your mother first learned the word “blog,” Julie, a wannabe writer, started one where she resolved to cook every recipe in Child’s 700+ page Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year—a deadline made permanent so she’d snap out of procrastination. That’s still true here, but Julie is such a droning, negative brat that she tries to argue her way out of it to husband Eric (Chris Messina) before she ever picks up a whisk. Julie is a real person—the blog became a hit which became a book—and the kindest thing you can say about her character is that she still feels like one, petty and grating and boastful and myopic. Though her culinary musings have a brassy Carrie Bradshaw chirp, she’s the anti-Sex and the City—a more-or-less happily married woman outclassed by frenemies as sleek and fierce as lionesses. Writer-director Nora Ephron doesn’t seem to see her as anything more inspirational than a whiny woman child, having one meltdown after another as she confronts the seven aspics of hell. Poor Amy Adams has been thrown on the barbecue; by contrast, Streep’s scenes as Julia Child are as delightful as a slice of watermelon. Her scenes with her even taller sister Dorothy (Jane Lynch) are a gas, and her approach to life is honest yet unpitying. As she absorbs the glum news that she might have just spent eight years on a cookbook no one might publish, she’s rattled, but resolute. Even when doing unspeakable things to a duck, she sets her shoulders and approaches it head on with a grin and a brace of gravitas. If the movie was only about her, we’d walk away full and happy.


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