Thanks for checking out our “Julie & Julia” review. If you’d like to see a video version of the Julie & Julia review you can see it at the bottom of this post.
A few months back I put up a rather large “Summer of 2009 Movie Forecast” post in which I listed the films to see, avoid and maybe see this summer. One of the films I put on my “must see” list surprised some people. At #13 was the new Meryl Streep, Amy Adams movie “Julie & Julia”. The reason I put this film on the list… Meryl Streep. The woman is a goddess amongst actors and anything she’s in deserves at least some curiosity. I was looking forward to seeing it… but wasn’t quite sure it would be all that great since it seems to have something of a bland premise. Was it any good? Dear heavens yes it was!!!
THE GENERAL IDEA
The synopsis for Julie & Julia looks something like this: “The film follows Powell, a government employee who decides to cook her way through legendary cook Julia Child’s classic cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in one year’s time out of her small Queens kitchen. Powell blogs her daily experiences, gaining a loyal following along the way.”
Like I said… not the most thrilling ideas is it?
There will be many who argue this point… even I myself find a debate going on in my own head… but I think I have to say this may be Meryl Streep’s best performance of her insane career. I was a little nervous (like in most biopics) that her performance would be nothing much more than an impersonation of Julia Child… but Streep took it 15 steps beyond just mere impersonation. Streep brought charm and emotion to the iconic character… making her both totally adorable, emotionally palpable, heart warningly endearing, funny, strong and vulnerable all at the same time. You don’t just buy into the character (which is the most important job of an actor), you also completely fall in love with the character. Streep dominates every second she’s on screen, even when she’s using her character to shine the spotlight on another if the scene called for it. There just are not enough words to describe how good this woman is at her job. I’ll go on record right now and say Meryl Streep will and should be nominated for a Best Actress Oscar at the next Academy Awards.
Ummm… is Stanley Tucci ever not 100% reliable? It becomes somewhat tiring when “perfect” characters are on screen. You know what I mean. Characters who are so perfect, so good, so right and morally impeccable that we disconnect them from reality in our heads. But somehow, Tucci finds a way to make his character (Child’s husband) all those things and yet completely watchable and real. I actually found myself admiring the character and hoping that I could some day be half as good of a human being as this guy is. When you start to “look up to” a movie character, the director is doing something very very right.
Speaking of direction, Nora Ephron (who also directed great films like “You’ve Got Mail”, “Sleepless in Seattle” and horrible films like “Bewitched” and “Lucky Numbers”) does a MASTERFUL job of coherently jumping back and forth between Julie’s time and Julia’s time to weave a smooth flowing story the never feels jared or out of place.
The world is not at steak in Julie and Julia. There is no hero trying to save a burning building full of people. It’s a simple story about one person who finds something that helps her find herself. It is a simple, yet beautiful story that is completely relatable for most of us despite its micro scale. I was enchanted by the story as we watch Julie discovering more and more about herself through the simple act of methodically working her way through a simple cook book. Who knew?
The film is surprisingly funny and draws all of it’s humor from it’s unrelenting charm.
Although the story of Amy Adam’s character was a sweet and inspiring one, it was clearly the weaker half of the film. I found myself inspired by Julie’s story… and yet a little disappointed whenever the film cut away from Julia Child to come back to 2002. It doesn’t feel right putting this in the “THE BAD” section since the 2002 parts were also great… but it did feel unbalanced compared to how amazingly great the Julia Child parts were.
I know I say this a lot… but Julie & Julia does drag on a little bit too long for the movie that it is. Hey, some films work perfectly at 3 hours. Some work perfectly at 80 minutes. Julie & Julia missed it’s perfect sweet spot by about 15 minutes. At 2 hours and 3 minutes (not a long time for most movies) the film felt a bit stretched out and began to drag just ever so slightly.
Where Tucci’s character (Julia Child’Julie & Julias husband) was a fantastic addition to the over all story, Julie’s husband in 2002 was most of a dead weight. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to communicate a negative perception of the performance actor Chris Messina (who I really liked but is unfortunately completely overshadowed in “Vicky Christina Barcelona”), but the character himself doesn’t do much to push the story forward or add much emotionally. As a matter of fact, there is a short sub plot in the film where Julie’s cooking project hurts her marriage… and the whole thing felt quite useless and lacked any emotional weight.
There’s no other way to put it… Julie and Julia is a fantastic film and maybe my 3rd or 4th favorite movie of the year thus far (which is rather shocking to be honest). This is terrific filmmaking. Yes, some of the emotional chords are a little out of tune and the film did drag on a bit past its optimal length, but it is endearing, funny, charming and entertaining. Meryl Streep must get an Oscar nomination for this role. Overall I give “Julie & Julia” an 8.5 out of 10.
You can see the Video version of our “Julie & Julia” review below: