Thursday, August 06, 2009

*child's play.

I recently had the opportunity to see Julie & Julia, the story of one-time temp Julie Powell and her quest to cook every recipe from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. In other words, 524 recipes, 365 days, 1 blog, 1 book, and now 1 major motion picture.

Meryl Streep - Julie&Julia poster

I got the advance reading copy back when Julie & Julia first came out in 2005 (thanks, TFin!), and to be honest, I didn't love it. I don't remember precisely what my beef was—it was four years ago, after all, and although as I recall it took me a long time to wade through, it also didn't conjure the defenestration impulse that, say, The Devil Wears Prada did. It just left me with a lukewarm, summer reading assignment sort of feeling.

I won't review the movie here; it's already been expertly done. Curse you, A.O. Scott! Why must you steal my thoughts?

When (if) you read that, you'll be all, "Geez, A.O. If you like Meryl Streep so much, you should just marry her."

Meryl Streep - Julie&Julia

You know, if you're 11.

But for all of that review's effusiveness, it cannot be overstated: Meryl Streep is unmatched. I don't know who else in the world would be brave enough to attempt this role, but she manages to pull it off fearlessly and flawlessly. You cannot take your eyes off Julia in this film.

Julie and Julia - Press Kit

Hey you: Get out of the way.

Meryl Streep - Julie&Julia

There, that's better. Of the trifecta of Julia, Stanley Tucci, who plays Julia's husband, Paul, and Jane Lynch as her sister, Dorothy, A.O. Scott says:

"In Mr. Tucci Ms. Streep finds, as in “The Devil Wears Prada,” a perfect foil. Like the character he plays, he is gallant and self-assured and able to assert a strong sense of his own presence even as he happily cedes the center of attention. Together, their mastery of the art is so perfect that even quiet, transitional scenes between them are delightful. (And when Jane Lynch shows up as Dorothy, Julia’s sister, the delight ascends to an almost indecent level of giddiness)."

Meryl Streep - Julie&Julia

That look there? The one on Jane Lynch's face? You will do that every time Julia is on screen. Throughout the theater there was cooing and pearl-clutching from every corner.

Meryl Streep - Julie&Julia

Even Julia can't help herself.

And what of Julie? I fear she doesn't fare as well.

Julie and Julia - Press Kit

Amy Adams is an effervescent presence, and she and husband-figure Chris Messina have some lovely chemistry, but the whole thing feels a little "who cares?" On the one hand, I did walk away with a little more respect for someone who takes on such a massive challenge as this one, particularly with the impossible one-year deadline. (I don't even know what I'm having for dinner, much less what I'll have accomplished—or not—by August 6, 2010.)

But while I agree with A.O. that the lack of drooling husband chasing is refreshing beyond measure, I'm not sure that the pushing-30-dissatisfied-directionless-whiny-where's-my-fainting-couch woman story is all that compelling.


Moving on.

Mmm, cake!

Meryl Streep - Julie&Julia

Because Meryl Streep had to wear shoes that were modified stilts to reach Julia's unmistakable 6'2" height, it's fun to play Find the Feet. (Hint: Look behind the produce basket, the counter, the galvanized bucket, the footstool ... .) And the food in this movie is centerfold-ready—bread laden with melted butter, heat-kissed pastries, thickly stewing beef, and deep glasses of wine—and people eat it with an abandon I warmly appreciate. At more than two hours long the story does seem to drag a little in places, but that could be my legendarily nonexistent attention span talking. Look! Eraser dust!

So I suppose what I'm saying is, go see Julie & Julia. You haven't seen a performance like this before, truly. Just try to grab disco naps during the Julie Powell story. And whatever you do, don't go hungry.


at: 9:08 PM said...

Brilliant! Love the shoe 'tip' -- almost as much as I love your critique!



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I am a work in progress. I perpetually need a hair cut. I'm totally devoted to my remarkable nieces and nephew. I am an elementary home cook and a magazine worker bee. (Please criticize my syntax and spelling in the comments.) I think my dog is hilarious. I like chicken and spicy things. I have difficulty being a grown-up. Left to my own devices, I will eat enormous amounts of cheese snacks of all kinds.