A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 149 – Julie & Julia

Julie & Julia – July 27th, 2010

I have extremely fond memories of Julia Child from my childhood. My parents both love to cook and were always in the kitchen. Cooking shows were regular viewing in my house. Julia Child and Jeff Smith come immediately to mind, though my mother informs me now that she wasn’t too fond of Jeff Smith, he was my father’s choice. You see, I’m spending the night at my parents’ summer house and I watched this with them both tonight. I wish we could all have watched it with Andy too, but work makes things like that so difficult! I admit, my review might well be colored by my parents’ reactions to the movie. They loved it, by the way.

The book this movie is based on enjoyed a good deal of fame when this movie came out and it passed across my desk more times than I could count. Eventually a copy came through and it didn’t need to immediately head out to someone else, so I grabbed it and read it on my breaks over the next couple of days. I hadn’t expected to enjoy it as much as I did (overhype), but finding out that Julie Powell not only made references to mutant powers, but also expressed a rather hilariously dirty sense of humor immediately endeared her to me. Unfortunately, a lot of what made Julie’s voice in the book so fantastic was lost in the movie. It’s a pity, because there are glimpses of it in the Julie portions, but then, it was also unavoidable given the way the movie was put together, with half of it being given over to the story of Julia Child moving to Paris with her husband, falling in love with French food, and eventually writing a French cookbook for Americans with two of her friends there.

Through the expanded role of Julia Child’s life there’s an effort to make Julie’s life and Julia’s life mirror each other a bit, with the rises and falls moving somewhat in sync. Of course it isn’t perfect. It’s contrived. But as a movie contrivance it works okay. The only real problem with it is that, well, in the presentation of the movie, Julia’s life is simply so much more exciting than Julie’s. Let’s face it, no matter how much fun it is to watch Julie melt down over her ruined stew and floor-chicken, it’s far more fun to watch Julia experiment with making a foolproof mayonnaise. And it’s not just a matter of attitude. While Julie’s frustrated at her cubicle job, Julia’s frustrated at being stuck learning how to make hats. While Julie hates her crummy Queens apartment, Julia hates being forced to leave Paris and eventually move to Oslo. How can an ordinary woman with an ordinary life compare? Even if she is embarking on a somewhat epic quest to cook everything in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

What all this eventually does is make Julia the focus of the movie, not Julie, which changes things from the book quite a bit. Like I said, it’s unfortunate. Mostly for Julie. Sure, she has her moments in the movie, some of which are pure acting and some of which are aided by the soundtrack, like The Talking Heads’ ‘Psycho Killer’ during the lobster-murdering scene. Amy Adams does a good job with what she’s given, some of which is very cute indeed. She’s a lot cutesier than I imagined Julie being (Julie in the book is a good bit drier and not so much with the adorableness), but that’s clearly how the part was constructed. Julia, on the other hand, is, well, Julia. It was hard to remember I was watching Meryl Streep playing a role, to be honest. She had everything down, from Julia’s voice and intonation to her posture and mannerisms.

So in the end, the stories mesh well, and I have no complaints whatsoever about any of the acting. It’s a fantastically fun movie and well worth watching for Julia alone, but I can’t discount Julie. Watching it with my parents, who enjoyed it so very much, I decided to take an open-minded view of Julie’s role in the movie. Instead of looking for her as the starring role, I viewed her as how Julia is in Julie’s book: As chapter introductions and accents, bits and pieces to highlight the story the viewer/reader is focusing on. That might not be what was intended, but I think it works well that way.

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

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