Film Reviews

JULIE & JULIA

By • Aug 20th, 2009 •

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Needs a story and a director. Bottom line: Who cares?

Here are the only things worth knowing: Julia Child (Meryl Streep) was a virgin until she married at the age of 40. However, she wisely waited long enough to make a brilliant marriage. Her husband Paul (Stanley Tucci) not only absolutely worshiped her, he thought she was a sex goddess, a genius, and indulged her wish to do something creative. Finally, she decided she wanted to learn French cooking at the legendary Cordon Bleu in Paris.

Being married to a diplomat had its privileges!

Following the pattern of THE HOURS, Julia’s life in post-war France is linked to Julie Powell’s (Amy Adams) life in New York. Julie is a 30-year old who lives in Queens with her husband Eric (Chris Messina) and works in a government office cubicle taking calls from 9/11 victims.

Julie decides to cook all 524 recipes in Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in a year and blog about it. The blog becomes the Julie/Julia Project. Julie’s husband is encouraging and supportive.

I have a well-worn hard copy of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” and do consider it the textbook of cooking. However, I have kept away from slaying a lobster and deboning a duck.
Okay, so where’s the story? What about conflict and hardship? How about an evil adversary? Nope,not a one.

While this is about Child and her iconic book, it was originally the work of two French chefs, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle. They were having a tough time finding a publisher for their cookbook on French cooking in English and asked Julia for help. The rest is history. We do learn too much about getting a publisher, losing a publisher, the contract, and how Bertholle was shunted aside for not contributing her equal share of the work.

But not by Julia! She was too happy-go-lucky and carefree to be concerned over author credits, royalties, and fame. That would come later when she rejected Julie!

Did Eric really storm out for 2 days because Julie was being a self-centered bitch? What a crisis! Now, if Eric had taken the cat…

Julie becomes famous after a New York Times article. Quickly follows the TV appearances, book, movie, reality show, and the soon-to-be-announced Broadway musical. Eric and Julie will leave their apartment above a pizza store. Julie hangs out with Amy Adams.

But, when Julia Child’s 90th birthday is approaching and a celebration planned, Julia does not want to meet Julie! In fact, the great mistress of French cooking is peeved at Julie for even attempting to best her by actually cooking all her recipes! Who does Julie think she is? Gordon Ramsey?

Julia Child will not be upstaged!

Streep has a very tough role. Child was 6’2″ with a voice that has no ethnic history but is entirely her own creation. Julia is always happy-go-lucky, ready for sex, and lots of fun! Post-war France was oodles of fun, fun, fun!

Europe during World War ll? Let’s not ruin things by mentioning food coupons and bombed-out farms!

Poor Adams, being true to a working class New Yorker who lives above a pizza store, her wardrobe is lousy, her apartment a mess, and she has no hot office faux-romance. There is no Gerard Butler, or gay friend, encouraging her to cook recipe number 89! She has to hunt for fresh basil on her own.

There is the great Jane Lynch. When I saw her name in the beginning credits, I knew we would have at least one character for Streep to play off. They are a fabulous pair. Let’s see them together again!

How does Meryl Streep do it? She goes from looking 35 (MAMMA MIA!) to looking 50!

Writer-director Nora Ephron has no sense of romance, drama or pacing. JULIE & JULIA drags on. It is a mess. Nora Ephron should retire. Her time has come and gone.
Skip the movie and read Julia Child’s memoir “My Life in France.” The paperback edition is filled with personal photographs (Anchor Books, A Division of Random House, Inc.)

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