Monday, August 24, 2009

Monday Movie Review: Julie & Julia

Julie & Julia (2009) 8/10
"Based on 2 true stories:" Julia Child (Meryl Streep) and her husband Paul (Stanley Tucci) move to Paris, and Julia struggles to find something that interests her to occupy her time, finally enrolling in the Cordon Bleu; Julie Powell (Amy Adams) writes a blog chronicling her process of working her way through Child's cookbook over the course of a year. Written & directed by Nora Ephron.


Every single reviewer who has written about this film has remarked that Julia is more interesting than Julie, and that's true. The Julia sequences have two of the great watchable actors, Streep is astonishing, Tucci is astonishing, it's like a houseful of astonishing. The Julie sequences have Amy Adams, who is lovely and very good, and Chris Messina who is also good, but come on! The Julia scenes also have world travel, period clothing and settings, and snooty Parisians, so who could compete with that?

But the movie brings something more to the table than simply dividing it into two and comparing sides. It is full of warmth; indeed, it is full of love. Here is a story in which both female leads are married to good, loving men and have okay lives. They're trying to find themselves and they do so through cooking, but they are not tragic, desperate, ridiculous, or slapstick.

Early on, I was surprised to discover that Julie Powell is a really good cook. This project was not disproportionate to her skill, despite her insecurity. I had expected something more laughable. More of a movie, I guess, and less of a life. I realize that much of Julie's life is fictionalized, but it feels grounded.

What struck me as I left the theater was that there were no weirdly awkward scenes, no twists, no complicated rom-com goofy switcharoos, no nothing except joy and discovery and hard work and a sense of both its frustrations and rewards. It's a movie that is not at all dull, and yet not dependent on cinematic situations to keep it interesting. It has good friendships, good conversations, wit, sex, and lots and lots of wonderful food.

I think you should see it.

(Cross & post)