Julie & Julia was a much anticipated movie for me! Right from the first clip I saw many months ago as a preview in another movie I was seeing….I was sure this was going to be a winner! How could it not be? It had everything: Meryl Streep, who I love and strongly believe is incapable of a bad performance; Amy Adams, who I think is simply adorable and a delightful actress; Stanley Tucci, who I adore – what a marvelous character actor; Nora Ephron, who’s movies have always ended up on my “loved them” list; blog theme, well, you know I love blogs; food theme, ditto! It was a sure bet!
All the elements I mentioned above were there and each one did live up to my expectations! So, why did the movie fall flat for me? How can a movie with everything going for it not come together as a perfect whole? Well, I’m not really sure how it happened, but it did! But, to say it was a total disappointment is not true, either. So, I’ll break it down….
This is a movie based on TWO life stories and is told as TWO separate stories in TWO separate eras on TWO separate continents……and, in my opinion, they should have made it into TWO separate movies. They intertwined them and it didn’t work! The two just didn’t mix. It might have been different if the two women were to come together at some point – meet and physically connect somehow, but they don’t, other than a brief mention that Julia may or may not have made some comment in an interview that a publisher heard about that implied she didn’t like that Julie was capitalizing on her.
The “Julia” part: Meryl Streep is incredible (of course) as food icon Julia Child during her time living in post WWII France with her husband, Paul. Paul is played by the wonderful Stanley Tucci. Both characters are colorful and enduring. Streep and Tucci have a fascinating chemistry that worked great in “Devil Wears Prada” and is even stronger as Julia and Paul Child. They brought the characters to life and did them true justice! They were the best part of the movie. I found myself instantly paying closer attention and sitting up straighter whenever the scenes about Julia’s life began. The telling of Julia’s attempt to find herself that brought her to decide to build on her love of food and attend the famed Cordon Bleu culinary arts school was interesting and funny. The same can be said about how she got her start as a writer. The relationships in her life – her husband, her sister, her co-authors in France, and a life long pen pal that she finally meets on a trip to the US to visit a publisher are all genuine and speak volumes to her character. I would have loved to have had the whole movie devoted just to Julia’s life so they could expand on several aspects they only briefly eluded to. Like, for instance: there were at least two scenes where Julia got extremely emotional about seeing a baby or hearing of a dear friend being pregnant. I got the impression that she couldn’t have children of her own – perhaps a deeper dive into her relationship with her beloved husband might have provided a touching aspect to the story line. It would have been interesting to also get more information on the impact of the McCarthy Era on Paul Child and their life together – there was a lot of reference to their political views and Paul was called to Washington where he was investigated. I really think there is a full two hour movie in there and that they missed out on a wonderful opportunity by cutting it so short and mingling it with another story.
The “Julie” part: Amy Adams portrayed Julie Powell, a budding author who just couldn’t seem to get published. She decides to just write for herself by starting a blog devoted to cooking her way through Julia Child’s “The Art of French Cooking” cookbook and her experiences along the way. Sounds like a great blog and like a really cool concept for a movie. But, for me, it was an annoying distraction to the “Julia” part. Amy Adams is adorable and brings a lot to her character – that’s not the problem – the problem was the story and the other characters. There were some really funny scenes – like when she has to touch and kill live lobsters for the first time in her life and scenes where, despite following the recipe and instructions to the letter, the food still did not turn out well at all! But, for the most part, the scenes felt rushed and incomplete. The most irritating part for me was watching her, her husband, and her friends eating! They ate like pigs that were on the verge of starving to death and were given a meal that may be their last one ever! They rapidly crammed more food in their mouth than could fit in one bite, chewed with their mouths wide open, and laughed and talked with their mouths crammed full while they continued to cram more in! It was disgusting to watch!!! Yes, I know, they were trying to convince us that they were in ecstasy over the wonderful food Julie cooked for them — but, you can show how much you love the food without being obnoxious about it! The scenes in the “Julia” part where Julia and Paul were savoring some wonderful offering of French cuisine told it all in the looks on their faces and the joy in their eyes! Overall, the “Julie” part had a couple brief moments of viewing pleasure, but it was fragmented and could have been left on the cutting room floor with little impact to the rest of the movie (except that the title wouldn’t have made much sense….).
Again – I would have liked the movie much more if it had dropped the “Julie” part and expanded a lot more on the “Julia” part. Putting them together just didn’t work – they didn’t meld at all and didn’t even do much to compliment each other.
The Julia part: A
The Julie part: D+
All together: C+
Too bad they will probably never go back and take advantage of the missed opportunity to make a full feature film with Meryl Streep as Julia Child and tell the whole story! Now that is a movie I would really enjoy seeing!