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Movie Review: Julie & Julia

'Julie & Julia' is just OK & OK
Julie & Julia
Genre: Drama
Running Time: 123 min
Release Date: 2009-08-07
Tags: There are no tags.
By "Lawrence Toppman"
The Charlotte Observer

You know the feeling you get when you make a meal of two mildly savory appetizers that don't quite go together, and you leave you wishing you'd eaten one hefty entrée?

That's “Julie & Julia.” Half an hour later, I wanted to watch another movie.

Writer-director Nora Ephron took her idea from the book of that name by Julie Powell, a New Yorker who set out to make the 524 recipes in Julia Child's “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in one year. Powell blogged about her effort, mixing (on the evidence of this movie) superficial philosophy and personal revelations with reports from the kitchen, then wrote a book about the effort.

Hardly cinematic stuff. Not very stirring, either, when the dramatic climax involves Powell's attempt to bone a duck. (I was on the edge of my seat, but I often tend to slide forward when I lose focus.)

So Ephron spends half the movie with Powell (Amy Adams) and her husband (Chris Messina). The other half follows Child (Meryl Streep) as she takes up cooking in post-World War II France, where her spouse (Stanley Tucci) works in the diplomatic corps. Yet this subject isn't suspenseful, either: We know the boisterous, unstoppable Child will become America's most beloved French chef.

The stories begin to parallel each other, as the women try to find something to fill empty hours. Child is restless because her intelligence often goes unused; Powell is emotionally depleted because she works at a firm that processes 9-11 insurance claims.

But the modern heroine is at a disadvantage. Child fights the snobbery of French officials who believe an American woman should stick to frying chicken, and her left-leaning husband worries that Congress' anti-Communist activities could end his career. By contrast, Powell frets because she overcooks some liver, and her husband gets mopey because she spends too much time at her computer.

In the end, the film becomes an inadvertent commentary on the shallowness of our celebrity-crazy society.

Child worked for years to get her first book published for a small reward; Powell blogged for months and became a well-rewarded media celebrity. The woman who found a calling was slow to rise; the one who found a gimmick took off on a rocket. (She'll reportedly publish a second memoir: “Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession,” which details an affair she had after the first book's publication. Yikes.)

The acting provides most of the film's pleasures. Three of the performers do just what we expect: Tucci is fastidiously wry, Messina has an easygoing manner, and Adams is once again perky and self-doubting and sweet.

Streep, incredibly, reinvents herself as the rollicking Child. Though she's eight inches shorter than Child (who stood 6 feet 2 inches tall), camera magic makes her tower over everyone. Child galumphs around in her sensible shoes, braying contempt for obstacles and laughing just as loudly at her own mistakes, and we forget we're watching the most honored actress of her generation. (And one who, at 59, is too old to play a woman of 37. Luckily, Child didn't get TV exposure until her 50s, and that's the look we recall.)

It's Streep's joie de vivre that gives the movie flavor in its blander moments and finally allows it to become the soufflé Ephron intended. But as Child would have told you, a soufflé isn't a filling meal.

Reviews & Comments
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8/5/2009 - The Charlotte Observer - Lawrence Toppman

Parallel stories of the great chef of the '50s and the New Yorker who replicates her recipes in the '00s. Needs salt.

(Full review)
(no rating) Aug 22, 2009 - MDianne on Julie & Julia
re Julie & Julia

You all are great discerners. Let me get a try at it!

Today’s new cooking craze comes to life in this easy-going frolic reflecting culinary author, Julia Child and the reason she is a legend. In both personal and professional demeanor, Meryl Streep once again steps off the chart with one of the most delightful movies I’ve seen. The likeness of Julia Child is chilling, (for lack of a more superlative term ). Voice and presence were so much like her character, that the viewer will hardly know the difference.
During the movie, it was easy to become engaged in all the pleasant shiny dialogues she has with her adoring supportive husband, well played by Stanley Tucci, and fellow French cooking students -turned - friends who open the door to an unexpected cookbook endeavor.
Meanwhile, in a more modern time frame, the darling Julie Powell (Amy Adams) resurrects her mentor when she is not quite sure about her writing profession, but when given suggestion by her equally supportive husband, performed by Chris Messina, to execute her writing by blogging online about her real passion to cook and giving credit to her muse, Julia Child. With constant study and application of Child’s cookbook entries, she attracts the New York Times, some fans, and artful respect that slowly leads her to a higher ground.
Throughout the movie, time lines go back and forth that detail the French cook’s biography and style which comes full circle with Julie’s interest in the same field, but also with an interesting twist to simulate the two stars.
Superb entertainment that, due to its honest and fun approach , will keep a smile on your face all the way through your next soufflé .

(no rating) Aug 22, 2009 - SentioVenia on Julie & Julia
Streep's Approach

Meryl Streep has said that she wasn't playing a realistic Julia Child, but rather Julie Powell's perception of Julia Child.

That's all well and good, but if the audience doesn't know what she's attempting, it comes across as the familiar caricature of Julia Child.

(no rating) Aug 13, 2009 - tomburger on Julie & Julia
Toppman is a moron

Typical Observer review: totally off-base.

Saw this movie with my wife and found it very entertaining. Particularly enjoyed seeing a positive portrayal of marriage.

Aug 09, 2009 - frattgirl2 on Julie & Julia
T's review unfair to entertaining film

Enjoyed this movie on Saturday with my mom and sisters. We each had a different perspective on what we liked about it, what we "took" from it, but we all enjoyed slipping the bonds of our everyday kitchens and lives to step into the lives of these memorable characters.
I especially liked that Ephron included the SNL homage to Julia done by Dan Akroyd. It was as funny Saturday afternoon as it was Saturday night all those years ago.

(no rating) Aug 09, 2009 - maxiecapers on Julie & Julia
Julie & Julia

This movie was great! If you are a foodie or Child fan it is a must. Streep is perfect as Julia- even down to her mannerisms. Only problem you will have is where to eat after the movie! Food was sumptuous!

Aug 08, 2009 - scarheel on Julie & Julia
Fun movie

Saw it today with my wife and I enjoyed it. Is it the best movie ever? No, but it was fun and showed what it is like to be at a point in your life where you need to find yourself. Plus, if you enjoy cooking it is fun to watch the development of Julia Child.

(no rating) Aug 07, 2009 - snoopy28215 on Julie & Julia
Julie & Julia

Must be a good movie. The movies he does not like are good and the ones he does like are bad. I intend to watch this movie. Julia Child is a cooking legend.

(no rating) Aug 07, 2009 - Laura26 on Julie & Julia
Julia & Julia

I don't know how I feel about the movie ...yet. BUT I do know I have MISSED Lawernce Toppman totally. It is the first time I have opened the CLT first in months!!! Keep them coming Larry!!!

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