My goodness; Carol and Roger not only went to the movies, but saw a film playing in its first weekend! We got a babysitter and went to see the only film playing at the Spectrum in Albany, our favorite movie theater, we could agree on. (To be fair, Carol’s already seen a couple of them.) Actually had to briefly stand in line.
Julie & Julia is writer/director/co-producer Nora Ephron’s clever intertwining of two true stories: the coming of age of Julia Child, a bored American housewife in Paris after World War II, with Julie Powell, a frustrated would-be writer who works in a New York City agency to help those affected by the events of September 11, 2001. Julie worships Julia, the cookbook author who made French cooking accessible to Americans, and starts a blog to track her Child-like efforts/obsession.
The strength, and perhaps the weakness, of this movie is that Julia Child is played by the incomparable Meryl Streep, who quickly disappears into this role. Entertainment Weekly already says this year’s Oscar is Streep’s to lose; I haven’t seen that many other movies in 2009, but this is a bravado performance, steeled by great support from Stanley Tucci as her husband. Tucci, BTW, appears in the possibly greatest foodie movie of all time, Big Night; Tucci and Ephron are foodies in real life. I also enjoyed the brief turn by Jane Lynch.
So the more modern story suffers by comparison because it features Amy Adams, who costarred with Streep in Doubt, but shares no real scenes here. Adams is a fine actress, but her somewhat whiny story and the attendant acting by her, Chris Messina as her husband, and others, were not as interesting, or nearly as funny.
I should note, however, that the more historical tale had some built-in advantages. When Paul Child suggests to Julia that she could be on television, she laughs. The audience laughs too, in part because they know that Julia eventually DOES appear on the small screen.
Some critics suggested they had difficulty keeping track of which time period the story was in; my wife and I had no such difficulty. Others wished that it was more about Julia and less about Julie, if at all; the reality that with a mere history of Child, the viewer would miss some insights about Julia that Julie exposes to us.
So, I recommend the film. If I did stars, it’d be 3 out of 4; grade would be B+.
A 10-minute Streep interview. Interesting how an agent provocateur’s comments and response to same took over. He said – I assume it’s a he, “There’s a reason why old fart and over the hill actresses aren’t in great demand–because no one wants to see them! Let’s compare: Meryl Streep vs. Angelina Jollie? Not Meryl! Or, how about Meryl Streep vs. Scarlett Johanson? Not Meryl here either! One more shot: how about Meryl Streep vs. Megan Fox?” Evidently talking about something other than acting. Even Megan Fox, in the EW cover story, noted that her acting skills are nascent.
Carol and I once saw Stanley Tucci at Capital Rep theater in Albany several years ago. Can’t remember what we saw, but I was close enough to say to him, if I had had the nerve, “Loved you in Murder One and Big Night.” But I didn’t; so it goes.