Published on October 1st, 2009 | by Yellow Magpie2
Julie and Julia Film Review: The Genuine And The Pretender
Julie And Julia Film Review
Director: Nora Ephron.
Cast: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, and Chris Messina.
Here is Yellow Magpie’s Julie And Julia film review.
Julia Child is often referred to as the chef who revolutionised American cooking. Although this statement may be slightly hyperbolic (America is still a country notorious for TV dinners, fast food and obesity), Child certainly provided the cooking archetype for people to aspire towards.
First off, in Julie and Julia, Nora Ephron and Meryl Streep wonderfully capture the essence of Child. Streep’s performance is simply astounding. Those who haven’t seen Julia Child in action may well think that what they are seeing is a parody.
However, this is definitely not the case. Streep has managed to portray every detail of Child’s idiosyncratic personality. From her movement to her appearance, from her acerbic wit to her unique phrasing, what we get is a perfect representation of the famous chef.
Paul (Stanley Tucci) And Julia Child (Meryl Streep) In Julie And Julia. Columbia Pictures
‘Powell also comes up with a plan to save herself from the dread of her everyday existence.‘
The film is neatly spliced into two separate but similar stories. Julia Powell is a stressed, under-appreciated office worker who deals with troubled members of the public on a regular basis. Dissatisfied with her life, she dreams of fame and recognition. Hating her job where she is under-appreciated, she is envious of her ultra-successful peers.
Meanwhile, we are shown Child in her early Paris days trying to find something to occupy her time while her husband works. Although she tries out numerous jobs, everything goes back to her love of food. By a process of elimination she decides to take a cookery course. After becoming a highly skilled chef, Child decides to do what no has every done before – write a guide to French Cooking for an American readership.
‘Ephron’s portrayal of the two characters is very uneven.‘
Powell also comes up with a plan to save herself from the dread of her everyday existence. She undertakes to cook all of Child’s recipes in one year and blog about her efforts.
Ephron’s portrayal of the two characters is very uneven. On the one hand, Meryl Streep’s Child fizzles, pops, and lights up the screen every second that she is on it. Like an addiction to sugar, you cannot wait to have your next hit of Child. Funny, witty and with clever dialogue peppered throughout, this is the film at its very best.
However, Julie and Julia seems to suffer when Powell’s character is on-screen. There are a number of reasons for this, none of which are Amy Adams’ fault. The Powell parts of the script are a lot weaker than the Child sections. Bereft of the enigmatic and lovable personality of Child, the film suffers and Powell is no substitute.
Julie and Julia greatly overplays Powell as being unfortunate. Everything conspires against her. People hate her, her friends don’t respect her and according to herself she is underachieving having been the editor of a college newspaper.
‘There is no doubt that we are seeing a santised version of Child.’
Powell’s struggle with life is so overdone that the viewer starts to lose sympathy for her quite quickly. This becomes a tiresome motif and is one of the main reasons why it is difficult to sympathise with her. The more the film progresses the more pronounced the differences between the characters appear to be.
Her apartment and more importantly her kitchen is in stark contrast to Child’s. Small, cramped and aesthetically unpleasing, it is a million miles removed from her counterpart’s. And this points to the heart of the film.
Ephron’s Julie and Julia is basically about fantasy and reality. There is no doubt that we are seeing a santised version of Child. A fantasy that the American people have of their favourite Chef. Powell is therefore offered as the reality. The messiness of cooking, the hard work that goes into learning a craft and the slog to get recognised and published is Powell’s reality. This is quite clear and the film continually references it.
Even with this clear demarcation, we are also seeing a sanitised version of Powell. The dysfunctional relationship that the couple had in real life is toned down to a couple of lines of arguments and one scene in which her husband walks out only to return later.
In reality, Powell had a troubled marriage and the couple are now divorced. Perhaps unwisely, this is ignored in the film.
‘Understated and understanding, Paul Child is the perfect foil to Child’s larger than life personality and keeps his wife grounded.’
Stanley Tucci gives a sterling performance as Child’s husband, Paul. Understated and understanding, Paul Child is the perfect foil to Child’s larger than life personality and keeps his wife grounded. He is the one who has to deal with the effects of Senator McCarthy’s anti-intellectual witch-hunt. He is the calming influence as Child encounters difficulties along the way. In truth next to his larger-than-life wife, he is one of the quiet, uncomplaining heroes of the film.
Chris Messina, however, is unconvincing as Eric, the husband of Powell. Whether intentional or not, there is no chemistry between Powell and her husband. What we get are token signs of love. The viewer can’t help but feel that they are watching an actor playing a character rather than simply being the person.
In the film and in real life, the elderly Child rebukes Powell for using her to become famous. There is a hint of ageism in the response of Powell to this, saying that if she read the blog she might have a different opinion. However, the fact remains that Powell did indeed use Child to achieve her own fame. After all, would Marco Pierre White or Mario Batali allow someone to use their recipes to bring them fame. Doubtful.
Julie And Julia Film Review Julie Powell (Amy Adams). Columbia Pictures
‘Child has an incredibly likeable personality that Powell does not possess.’
This would have been completely different if Powell had done this when Child was not alive. However, she didn’t and this is disturbing. The fact that Child was in her nineties does not excuse this and is possibly a hint of ageism at work.
Child and Powell are two very similar figures in the film. Both wanted to be successful and both wanted to be known. Both come across as being self-obsessed and both have husbands who ground them. Yet there are two key differences, the fact remains that Child has an incredibly likeable personality that Powell does not possess. Secondly, Child is the innovator, she is the inventor. Whereas Powell is relying on Child’s fame to in-turn get her famous.
The main problem with the film is the Julie part of it. The film lags when Amy Adams is on screen playing Powell. This has very little to do with Adams. It has more to do with the script and the character of Powell.
The film is well worth seeing, despite its flaws, for just the Julia Child part alone. Funny, engaging and dynamic it is no wonder Child loved Paris and France. In a country which prides itself on individuality Child fitted right in.
You may also wish to check out Meryl Streep: An Extraordinary Talent and The Devil Wears Prada Film Review: A Movie With Vivid Performances.
For people living in Ireland or the United Kingdom, you can access Julie and Julia here.
For those who live in Canada, you can obtain Julie and Julia from here.
For Germany: Julie and Julia.
For France: Julie and Julia.