Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Julie & Julia

I'm a bit slow out of the gate with this one, having seen it at least two weeks ago. However, one way or the other, here we go.

Julie & Julia (Nora Ephron, 2009) (The Oxford) I have recently received some feedback on my blog to the effect that my posts are too long and too detailed - it seems that many people don't make it to the end of the post, where my recommendation is usually served up as a grand finale. In a nod to the wishes of my long-suffering readers, I shall dispense with preliminaries and declare Julie & Julia a wonderful film that is very worth watching- actually, I think that delightful may just be le mot juste.

No Basterds Here
However, J&J is not delightfully indulgent as was the case with Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds. Far from it: J&J is delightful for bringing a luminous character to life on screen and making the audience feel that they are getting to know her via some kind of telephone line through time - no blood, gore, gunfights, or explosions folks.

The film actually intertwines the stories of two now famous cooks: Julia Child herself (Meryl Streep), as she discovers the wonders of French cooking while in Paris in 1948 and decides to share it with the average American housewife by writing Mastering the Art of French Cooking; and Julie Powell (Amy Adams), a young American who hated her job and in 2002 found a way out of it by writing a blog chronicling her determination to cook every recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking in the space of one year.

Two Stories Boil Down to One
Sure J&J is ostensibly the story of these two aspiring cooks, but to my mind it is really only about one person and one cooking journey: Meryl Streep steals the show so completely as Julia Child that when I think of the movie I barely think of the Julie part of it. This is no slight to Amy Adams, who does a very good job playing the pouty/perky/precocious/pouty New Yorker cooking away her frustrations in life and making her own lucky break in the process. Rather it is a tribute to an actress who hardly needs another tribute (As The Onion is happy to point out).Few actors or actresses reach the height of the dramatic arts with as much class as Ms. Streep. I don't even know where to begin: an angel on earth, appearing in a soft halo of ethereal beauty in The Deer Hunter, a poet dreamer in Out of Africa, an action hero in The River Wild, a bitch goddess to beware of in The Devil Wears Prada, a temptress of the innocent in The Simpsons, and a flinty incarnation of the cold, inhuman power of politics in the 2004 remake of The Manchurian Candidate.

And Meryl Streep is the essence of J&J, outshining the entire cast by reincarnating Julia Child right before our eyes. A cursory viewing of Julia Child clips on YouTube immediately shows how minutely Streep captured every detail ranging from the master chef's cadence of speech to her sweeping body language. The vivacity of this performance cannot be overstated, and the sheer joy with which she plays the sometimes overbearingly bubbly role is evident in every frame

Admittedly I don't know much about Julia Child, and the film may have (and, who are we kidding, probably did) present a biased imaged. One way or the other, it makes for an engaging movie that leaves you smiling, full of culinary optimism, and hungry for beouf bourguignon.

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