A word of caution if you’re contemplating checking out Julie & Julia, the new film staring Meryl Streep as legendary chef Julia Child and Amy Adams as Julie Powell, a real life blogger inspired to cook through Julia’s book Mastering The Art Of French Cooking:
Do not go into the movie with an appetite.
This film is as much about eating, the joy of eating, as it is about the two main characters. Butter is depicted in heavenly detail; deserts are consumed in pornographic fashion. For those of us trying watch what we’re eating, there should really be a warning before sitting down to watch Julie & Julia.
Luckily, the quality of the film is as solid as the quality of the meat Julie uses to make boeuf bourguignon. Seeing as how Julie & Julia is directed by Nora Ephron (Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail), the potential for rom-com lightweight comedy could have been a factor. But Ephron is also the screenwriter behind When Harry Met Sally, one of the best comedies of the past 20 years. Julie & Julia is far more of the latter, anchored by two excellent performances by its leading ladies.
Meryl Streep is, as usual, amazing in her performance. As an actor, she is simply infallible. Her Julia Child is smart, headstrong, sophisticated, and even kind of sexy. Most of the time the character’s sense of humour and determination are the focus, but it’s the rare moments when Streep shows the vulnerable side of Child that the audience gets to see a fully rounded person. There’s no doubt that Julie & Julia is Meryl Streep’s picture, and had it been released any time other than the summer I’d say she’d definitely be looking at yet another Oscar nomination.
Amy Adams is not Meryl Streep. That’s not a bad thing, mind you, because she also happens to be an actress of high quality. At one point during the film Adams’ Julie refers to herself as a bitch, and I admit that I wound up agreeing with that assessment. Her Julie is neither as likable or as interesting as Julia Child, but as a writer working in the world of blogging, I found the character’s ambitions and frustrations extremely relatable. The biggest difference between Julie and Julia is that while one is full of confidence and self-esteem, the other is often too self-absorbed and needy. It makes sense then, that I felt more engaged by Julia than Julie. There’s some talk that Adams could be the next Meryl Streep, and while I don’t know if I’d go that far (yet), I can see the possibilities. This is her second film with Streep after 2008’s amazing Doubt, and one gets the sense that Adams may possess the same chameleon like abilities as her co-star. We’ll have to wait and see on that one.
With so much focus on the film’s leading ladies, it’s worth mentioning that there are some great performances from the men in Julie and Julia as well. Chris Messina delivers a good performance as Julie’s husband, Eric, who is equally supportive, nurturing, and frustrated by his wife’s blogging endeavours, while Stanley Tucci as Julia’s husband Paul is nearly Streep’s equal. In Tucci’s hands, the passion Paul had for his wife is palpable. In a film that’s arguably made for women, it’s nice to see the men are given strong roles as well.
Julie and Julia is funny, charming, and thoughtful, but more so than anything else, it does what the best films always do: it leaves you wanting more.
More boeuf bourguigon.