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Julie and Julia Review


RATING:
(3 STARS)

Many have said that “Julie and Julia” is half a great film and half a poor one. I don’t think that’s necessarily true, but I do think the disjointedness of the film causes some problems. Still, it was a thoroughly enjoyable love letter to the kitchen featuring one of the best performances of the year from the incomparable Meryl Streep.

“Julie and Julia” is based on two novels and features two completely separate storylines. Julie Powell (Amy Adams) is a struggling almost-30 writer who is unhappy with her lack of accomplishments. She works as a bureaucrat at an agency that has something to do with the victims of September 11th, but she hates it. She also hates that her self-absorbed friends have become successful but she hasn’t. One friend, a writer, has started blogging, and Julie’s husband suggests she does the same. Julie loves cooking and decides to dedicate her blog to a year-long task she has set for herself: cooking every recipe in Julia Child’s cookbook “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”

We also follow Julia Child’s (Meryl Streep) quest to publish the book. In post WWII Paris, Child struggles to find a path while her husband, Paul (Stanley Tucci), serves his four year term at the American embassy. She decides to go to cooking school, where she excels. She then meets two Parisian women who have been trying to get a French cookbook for American women published. They enlist the help of Child, who guts the book and turns it into a masterpiece.

I think there is actually a lot to like about Powell’s story. Maybe it’s because I can relate to her wondering whether or not there is anybody actually reading her blog (as I do; anybody out there?), but I think it’s more the presence of a conflict in Powell’s story, whereas Child’s story meanders a bit.

With that said, however, I do think Child’s story is ultimately more compelling. That’s thanks to another tremendous performance from Meryl Streep (and great supporting work from Stanley Tucci). Streep is Julia Child. I can’t put it any more plainly. Her voice and mannerisms are spot on, and she makes Child one of the most pleasant characters to watch on screen this year. Tucci is also a joy to watch. Paul is a great husband, and their relationship is one of the reasons the Child segments succeed as much as they do.

Amy Adams doesn’t do a bad job as Powell, but this isn’t her best work. Julie is written as kind of a one-note character, and Adams isn’t able to elevate the character above that. She is supported by Chris Messina as her husband Eric, who loves and supports his wife, but grows increasingly frustrated as his wife grows increasingly obsessed.

The biggest problem with the film is that there is little connective tissue between the two stories. There are parallels between the two women (the editing alone demonstrates this), but without as much as a word shared between the two women, the film is left without any closure. The women may not have spoken or met in real life, but I think the film would have been enhanced by something more.

The film is also very well written (despite problems with the character of Julie). Writer Nora Ephron (who also directed the film) cooks up a terrific screenplay that really conveys the passion these two women have for food and cooking. Your mouth will be watering in many of the scenes.

I think “Julie and Julia” will be recognized with quite a few nominations this awards season (although I don’t know how many it will win). Streep is a lock for an Oscar nomination and will compete with Carey Mulligan for the win. Stanley Tucci has a shot at a Best Supporting Actor nod, but I think he will be recognized for “The Lovely Bones” instead. I also think the film has an outside chance at a Best Picture nomination, but it might have to take home the consolation prize of winning Best Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes instead.

I would definitely recommend “Julie and Julia” on the strength of Streep’s performance alone, but I think it does more right than just one performance. It’s not the best film I’ve seen this year, but I was surprised I liked it as much as I did. It’s a sumptuous dish of good writing, directing, and acting. Bon apetit!

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