Julie & Julia Review

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?

THE GOOD

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.

THE BAD

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.

OVERALL

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:

18 thoughts on “Julie & Julia Review

  1. The Film: Julie & Julia

    AMAZING AND INCREDIBLE! (w. Fr. accent) It is absolutely both amazing and incredible that the one chef singularly responsible for the premature burial of one third of America should live to the very ripe old age of 92 and in health as did her husband of 48 very happy years—a successful chef, a successful marriage!

    Just a pun at least slightly more moribund than actually deserved because in 1960 as even today it was considered LOVE to serve animal products and kindness averted not to. And one thing that Julia had, and still has for each of us, is a mother’s love.

    I have just recently seen Julia e(t) Julie. It was truly a moving experience that quite honesty made me shed a tear at the passing of a great friend to America at home. Through the eyes of Ms. Julie Powell and the incredible warmth of both actors, Ms. Amy Adams—the consummate fairytale princess—and especially the very accurate portrayal by Ms. Meryl Streep—who had she always been so delightful would never have had to be the very beautiful woman that she is—I came to appreciate the personal import of Julia Child to millions.

    One criticism I do have of the film, however, is that the absolute seriousness of Ms. Child’s attitude toward cooking seemed somewhat diffused. Another is that she was apparently married at the age of 34 years and not 40 as reported. The consummate chef and the consummate teacher, Julia’s intensity in the kitchen could only be appreciated in her interactions with other equally esteemed and talented chefs such as Jacques Pépin who, like Julia, uses humor in order to diffuse and entertain but whose demeanor in the kitchen is no laughing matter—it is in the sincerest earnest.

    Jacques, as the innovator, is virtually always given Julia’s warmest non-perfunctory approval, but on those rare occasions when she feels that he may overstep a bit in changing established practice, Jacques senses the pending rebuke and quickly adjuncts, to which Julia (usually) acquiesces and nods her assent. The very subtle interaction is completely respectful and very entertaining, such as when one is invited into the home of a couple who are genuinely fond of each other’s exceptional ability in the kitchen (like my Mom and Dad—in our family every one cooks including the family canine, Lena, who was a devout Vegetarian like me! I just had to add this. Next time I will have to tell about my own dear sainted Grandmother—a quintessential homemaker—but off the subject for now.) ctt

  2. The counterpoint between Julie and Julia provides a rare look into legacy. We often see great persons depicted in lavish and heavy-handed film biographies, where the director wants the audience to believe that this person was a vital part in the course of human history. In cases like Ghandi and Malcolm X that thesis can be justified. But does someone like Jim Braddock really need to be portrayed as if he cured the great depression? Ephron portrays the life of Julia Child in a light, breezy tone; acceptable for the life she led. The Julie Powell segments allow us to better appreciate Child because we can see that she not only lived an extraordinary life, but that her legacy indeed affected others.

    Read my full review at http://cfilmc.com/julie-julia/

  3. After having greatly anticipated the film, I was initialy disappointed. However, today I realized that this movie is about the transformation of Julie. She learned to enjoy the process of cooking as well as the product. Today, with this in mind, I was able to enjoy the moment to moment steps of cooking a complex dish, as opposed to my usual rush to get it in the oven. What made the movie valuable was the reminder to slow-down. Other movies have overtly expressed what this one implied, in order for cooking to taste good, it must be done with love. After having greatly anticipated the film, I was initialy disappointed. However, today I realized that this movie is about the transformation of Julie. She learned to enjoy the process of cooking as well as the product. Today, with this in mind, I was able to enjoy the moment to moment steps of cooking a complex dish, as opposed to my usual rush to get it in the oven. What made the movie valuable was the reminder to slow-down. Other movies have overtly expressed what this one implied, in order for cooking to taste good, it must be done with love.

  4. AFter I mentioned what I’d pithily posted on your ‘preview’ review, I added this for friends:

    (SPOILER ALERT)

    “It’s not perfect. Some things aren’t explored. Some things are handled clumsily. But it’s so nice when most everything works, when a story isn’t insulting, when it all hangs together pretty well.

    Also, they deal with aspects Love nicely. (Let’s face it, this is a multi-faceted love story.) Partners supporting each other. And relating in the way that couples are meant to. The connection between Child and her husband is especially poignant…though the nuances will more than likely be lost on ‘younger’ audiences.

    It’s not going to change anyone’s life, but I’ll tell ya; Ephron does a ton with a minimum of dialogue…an accomplishment in itself. It’s very European in this way (makes sense, seeing as half of it is set there).

    Missteps? Small stuff: a) a lack of tension or conflict in Child’s marriage, its entire journey, b) Julie’s husband’s sudden and undeveloped exit, c) considering this was a film predicated on cooking, it felt incidental, and d) not really dealing with how Julie’s daily regimen of cooking would have impacted their lives (never mind the shopping required.)

    But I’ll forgive her the awkwardly-done stuff, the majority of it was that satisfying. Even though she seems incapable of digging deep, getting beyond ‘facile’. Not much progress has been made by her since ‘You’ve Got Mail’.

    All in all, the ‘Rewrite!’ I’d do on this would be minor.

    8.5/10”

    1. So are you saying that Julie & Julia is only good when being compared to the shitty movies they’ve handed us this year?

  5. 3rd or 4th favorite of the year

    1. Up (Obvious)
    2. Star Trek (Once again, Obvious)
    3.? So the deciding point is,since the only other movies you’ve given an 8.5 this year were Watchmen and the Hangover, is Julie & Julia better than both or one of these films

  6. Nice review. I’ve been curious about this movie mostly because I love Streep and Adams. With the good word going around I might not wait for DVD to check this one out.

  7. Found you through Youtube. Great site. And I agree, this movie was wonderful.

    And damn! For a movie nerd you’re pretty hot! ;)

  8. This year has been one big let down. I’m not trying to take anything from this film but most movies this year just werent good, so its not surprising that it ranks high for the year. Maybe its cause of the writers strike.

    Either way i’ll go check it out now.

    1. Like i said, I wasnt trying to take anything away from this movie. But its not hard to be in the top five movies of the year in a year with only five good movies.

  9. Great review John. I am surprised as well. I might actually check it out. Sadly, I have NEVER been an Amy Adams fan, contrary to everyone else that I know. It could be worth it for Streep. She is always amazing, I agree with you there. Great YouTube video as well. Thanks!

  10. Like I said in the other thread, a great surprise in a summer of let downs. Streep was amazing…she honestly had me enthralled, and I couldn’t have predicted such a thing if you’d have asked me a week before. “Julia Child? No interest…sorry.” Might have been my response. Boy would I have been off base.

    I agree on the Amy Adams story line, and found myself much less immersed and interested in her goings on. Part of the appeal of the Julia Child story was it’s been long enough that it was almost a period piece on top of the other great qualities. I love a good period piece.

    Great film.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *