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Julie and Julia

August 30, 2010

Julie and Julia (2009)
Director: Nora Ephron
Actors: Amy Adams, Meryl Streep, Stanley Tucci

Synopsis: Two parallel stories side-by-side. In the present day, Julie Powell (Amy Adams) is a blogger, inspired to cook all the recipes of famed chef Julia Child (Meryl Streep) in a calendar year. We also flash back to the days of Julia Child, and the genesis of the book which Julie is now referencing.

Review: New York blogger Julie Powell’s attempt to cook the entire group of recipes from a famous book on French cuisine by the fêted chef Julia Child has the germ of a decent idea, but the treatment it receives here from Nora Ephron is totally hamfisted and unsatisfactory. The only realistic way the film could have worked would have been to focus solely on one of the women (the film splits the narrative far too mechanically between Julie & Julia), or to make it a real sensuous paean to food itself (the wonders of cuisine are soon dropped for trite personal storylines). Ephron’s prime failure is a dramatic one though, as she fails to establish what is ever really at stake in either strand of the story. The Julia Child section is particularly disastrous with Meryl Streep’s hideously caricatured performance totally obscuring what little drama there is on offer. Streep gets ridiculously carried away with affecting Child’s extremely shrill and high-pitched persona, and though actors can get away with changes in accent, altering the natural timbre of one’s voice never works unless for comedy or impersonation (which I assume Streep was not looking to do). The Julia segment is also marred by lame subplots about her diplomat husband’s struggles with McCarthyite purges in the US central government, and her own uninteresting expat adventures culminating in her publishing the French cook book that Julie eventually blogs about.

At least the Julie subplot has some degree of normative characterisation with Julie being contextualised early in the piece as a not-so-young woman looking for succour from a dull office job and yearning for a project to kickstart her dreamed-about writing career. Unfortunately, Ephron loses this early macro-picture of Julie’s world, and the character slowly starts to become one-dimensional, defined by her neurotic attempts to complete the cooking project and suffering an embarrassingly contrived tiff with her cypher-like husband. (October 2009)

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