Last night PJ and I saw Nora Ephron’s new movie, Julie and Julia, starring Meryl Streep as Julia Child and Amy Adams as Julie Powell, a writer who decides to blog about making all of the recipes in Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year. Here’s the trailer:
I’ll jump right to the chase: I loved everything about this movie. As a kid I loved watching Julia Child’s PBS show, so I was really looking forward to seeing what Meryl Streep could do with this character. But the commercials looked a little cheesy, and based on that I thought that her accent as Child might be distracting and that she might be too over the top. I wasn’t sure she would pull it off.
But if I weren’t already a Meryl Streep queen, her performance in this movie would make me one! She is amazing in this role. I forgot that she is Meryl Streep after the first few seconds of her being on screen. She embodies Julia Child. She channels Julia Child. She IS Julia Child.
As the trailer suggests, the movie cuts back and forth between Child’s life in the 1950s and Julie Powell’s life after 9-11. Streep shines in every scene that she’s in. She emphasizes Child’s joy and effusive personality, her love of cooking as well as her love for her husband. But unlike some other recent portrayals of celebrities, she makes Julia Child a human being too. In little gestures and glances, she conveys moments of yearning, of regret, and of sorrow as well as of joy, of love, and of desire. It’s a fully fleshed out character, and Streep not only deserves an Oscar nomination but yet again deserves to win.
Adams is also good as Powell, though he character is less appealing. She sets out to complete Mastering the Art of French Cooking because she feels that her life is missing something and because she’s jealous of her friends’ busy, important lives. Her attempts at cooking complicated French recipes are sometimes humorous, but Ephron and Adams also show her less attractive sides. She narcissistic, petty, and selfish.
Where Julia’s story emphasizes the mutual affection and support that she and her husband Paul, played by Stanley Tucci, share, Julie’s story shows how she almost drives her husband away by her single-minded and narcissistic drive to gain celebrity through her blog. I liked that the contemporary segments offered this slightly darker view of relationships and fame. It serves as a good antidote to the froth and airiness of the Julia Child parts. Together these halves work together to create a great, fun movie about the joy of cooking (though that cookbook–The Joy of Cooking–doesn’t fare well in this film).
The film’s men are also very good. Tucci plays the loving, supportive husband very well. And hottie Chris Messina is great as the long-suffering but increasingly impatient Eric Powell. Jane Lynch has a small role as Julia’s sister, the very tall Dorothy McWilliams. She’s hilarious, as usual.
As a blogger, I especially enjoyed the film’s depiction of blogging. I could identify with Powell’s hopes that someone was reading her blog and her excitement when she gets her first comment. The movie does a great job of capturing blogging’s self-centeredness, the fact that wanting to share your thoughts and life with strangers on the internet is an inherently narcissistic and ego-driven enterprise. I’m ok with recognizing this motivation. I’m also ok with recognizing that, unlike Powell, I’m not going to get a book contract because my blog is so catchy and entertaining. My view of blogging is more informed by Tristram Shandy than by writers hoping to become famous.
In sum, Julie and Julia is a great film about cooking, relationships, and blogging. Streep is wonderful, and I really hope that she finally gets her third Oscar.