Julie & Julia

juliejuliaI don’t think there’s any real question that Meryl Streep is the finest actor of her generation. And at the risk of indulging in hyperbole, it might be safe to say at this point that she’s the finest actor of any generation.

Can you even conceive of a movie review that goes something like this: “The film is quite good but for the flat leading performance by Ms. Streep”? Of course not.

On the other hand, I’ve read plenty of reviews along these lines: “The film has its shortcomings but Ms. Streep’s commanding performance elevates the material.” Indeed, her very presence makes every film she’s in at least a little bit better.

In the case of Julie & Julia, the latest from writer-director Nora Ephron, Streep’s performance as famous chef Julia Child not only elevates the material but at times makes it simply transcendent. It’s a given year after year that Streep will be nominated for an Academy Award but I’ll go out on a limb six months out and say it’s finally her turn to win another one.

Streep’s Julia Child is an expert impersonation — the voice, posture and body movements are all pitch perfect — but her real triumph is not in the mimicry but in how she brings Child to life. Here’s a woman we know only through television clips being impersonated on a movie screen… but Streep makes it feel like you’re spying on your next door neighbor.

Much of the credit goes, of course, to Ephron, who has written a deliciously witty script and stayed out of the way as a director — this is her strongest work in many years. And Stanley Tucci as Child’s adoring husband is worthy of his own Academy Award nomination for his charming portrayal.

And while I’m talking about Academy Award nominations, why not make some room for Jane Lynch in the Supporting category. Her brief turn as Child’s sister could be the most enjoyable ten minutes I’ve spent in a theater so far this year. It’s exactly the sort of spark the best character actors deliver.

I’ve gone this long without mentioning the “Julie” part of Julie & Julia, and I don’t intend that as a slight to Amy Adams. Adams has emerged as a fine actor in her own right, with roles as varied as the conflicted nun in Doubt, a spunky Amelia Earhart in Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian and of course her comic tour de force in Enchanted.

She does a fine job portraying blogger Julie Powell, who became famous while documenting her quest to cook every recipe in Child’s (very thick) cookbook. I found Adams’ scenes with her husband (Chris Messina) very funny and real. For the first two thirds of the film, I was both happy and sad every time the film jumped from one character to the other… both stories were clicking so well. Around that two-thirds point, though, I lost a little interest in Julie and found myself wanting to spend more time with Julia.

But that’s nit-picking. I’d have to strain to come up with things I didn’t like about this film. It’s charming, sweet and funny and goes down about as easy as one of Child’s souffles.

Finally, I will admit that watching Powell blog about 524 recipes felt a bit familiar as I approach my 400th Song of the Day. I think I have the better deal, though… it’s a lot easier to listen to a 4-minute song than to cook a Boeuf Bourguignonne. Fewer calories, too.

4 thoughts on “Julie & Julia

  1. Amy says:

    🙂 Have you ever had an epic meltdown when the song just wouldn’t upload the way you needed it to?

    I agree with your review – word for word. I found this film delightful, Streep and Tucci spectacular, the Lynch scenes charming, funny and real, and the relationship between Julie and her husband touching. I’ve read a bunch of reviews that focus on the fact that the film is as much a commentary on good marriages as it is on food, or blogging, or these two women, or whatever else it would be ABOUT. And I think that is what ultimately makes it so successful. Watching two flawed but happy and working relationships is too rare an opportunity in movies today.

    When Julia beams at her husband’s appreciation of the savory flavor of one of her recipes, that moment exemplifies everything that makes this film work.

  2. Clay says:

    Not that scene, but another great one between Streep and Tucci:

  3. pegclifton says:

    I also agree with every word in your review and Amy’s comment. I just loved this movie!

  4. Kerrie Rueda says:

    Make that double for me! This was, hands down, one of the loveliest and most enjoyable movies I have seen in a very long time. I saw it with Mom and Heather while they were visiting and we couldn’t have been happier to share the experience. I was sad when it came to an end because I, like you, always found the transition from Julie to Julia a little bittersweet.

    The actors were all so wonderful – talk about a dream team, this cast was fantastic – and Meryl Streep was just incredible. I do hope your Oscar prediction is correct. I’d go for your supporting nod as well; Jane Lynch was delightful and it was a nice change from some of the raunchier comedy she’s been doing (also very well, I might add).

    Now I’m off to read the book (which Mom and I both bought immediately after seeing the movie). 🙂

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