A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Julie & Julia

July 27, 2010

Julie & Julia

Amanda and I had intended to watch this movie together with her mother. Last Christmas we bought her a copy of the movie on DVD, and so did Amanda’s father. It’s just so clearly the perfect movie to watch with one’s mother-in-law. Especially with my mother-in-law; a woman who instilled in my wife a love both of public television and of fine cooking. Sadly, I’m not watching this with them. Amanda is away for the night, watching Julie & Julia with her mother, and I am watching the movie alone.

I’m finding it a slightly meta experience to blog about watching a movie that is in part about a blogger. Not that I really think of myself as a “blogger” but there’s no denying that for the past three months my wife and I have been posting a movie review every day. It’s not who we are, but it’s something we enjoy doing. Early on in the movie they briefly show a “days left” counter on Julie’s blog and I instantly thought to myself “Hey! I have one of those!”

I love the fairy tales of Nora Ephron. Even when they are based on true stories (well in this case on two true stories according to the subtitle at the start of the film) they have an otherworldly charm. I am definitely not the target audience but I enjoy them nonetheless. Nora has a knack for creating these very human characters on the screen that people can’t help but love. (I look forward to our “baseball week” when we’ll be reviewing A League of Their Own.) I did, however, find her storytelling a little heavy handed tonight.

In the modern-day segments of the movie Nora uses song lyrics in a couple places to reinforce the emotional impact she’s trying to make, and on some occasions it threw me right out of the movie. Particularly when Julie and her husband are going through a rough patch and the scene is accompanied by the song Stop the Train with the lyrics “don’t throw this away.” I expect to be emotionally manipulated by a Nora Ephron movie (like watching a Stephen Spielberg movie.) I just don’t expect it to be so blatant.

Maybe it’s symptomatic of the main problem that the whole movie struggles with, which is that it’s actually two movies. There’s the story of Julie Powell writing her food blog and cooking all of Julia’s recepies, and there’s the much more griping story of Julia Child and her struggle to publish her magnum opus on French cooking for Americans. A lot of effort has been done to show parallels between the two stories, and they’re inter-cut in such a way that dialog from a scene in one time period often relates to what happens in a scene in the other time period (there’s even a sort of “joy of cooking” montage that tries to drive this idea home) but I couldn’t help feeling that the Julie Powell parts of the movie paled in comparison to the Julia Child parts.

I don’t blame Amy Adams.and her portrayal of Julie Powell. She just didn’t have enough to work with to bring her half of the movie to the level of the other half. The deck is very much stacked against her. Maryl Streep’s sections of the movie are lavish, lush period pieces with exotic locales in Paris. Julia Child as a character is so compelling and vibrant, especially as embodied by Meryl Streep – who is so magnetic and alive in her portrayal that she’s a joy to watch, that nobody could really hope to live up to that standard. Julie’s life by comparison is so mundane and drab that when her life is being portrayed on the screen I couldn’t wait for her segments to end so we could get back to Julia. Indeed I found as I was watching and writing this review I was doing most of my writing during the modern day parts of the movie and watching in rapt attention during the flashback parts.

So, yeah, it’s an uneven movie and not Nora Ephron’s best work. But the parts I liked, being pretty much any time that Meryl Streep was lighting up the screen, were wonderful to watch. I rather wish that I had been watching it with my wife and mother-in-law, because I know exactly what parts they would have been laughing the hardest at, and I would have enjoyed sharing that. And now I’m off to my drab modern-day kitchen to see if there’s anything remotely edible in it.

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July 27, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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