Julie & Julia
What a sweet little movie! It’s not going to bring about world peace, or solve global warming, or do anything about the oil shortage, but really, what movie is? Not all good movies have to be heavy, nor do they have to be joke-filled comedies. This movie has little in the way of actual plot, it’s more of a case of spending a pleasant two hours with some people you like. Two true stories, fifty years apart: Julia Child learning the art of French cooking in the early 1950s, and Julie Powell, who vows to cook every recipe in Julia’s book in one year, and write about it on her blog. That’s pretty much it. We jump back and forth between the stories. Nothing much is really at stake, there are no big dramatic moments. About the worst it gets is when Julie’s husband gets a little fed up (so to speak) and moves out for a day or two, and a brief emotional scene concerning Julia’s inability to have a child. Other than that, the only tears you will shed will be during a funny scene when Julia is chopping onions. But if you are like me, you will laugh a lot, and most of the rest of the time will be spent with a grin on your face. If you aren’t grinning, well, truck your insensitive, Attention Deficit Disorder ass down to any one of the stupid, cookie-cutter action movies playing in the same multiplex as this one, you pathetic fanboy, and don’t bother to come out, okay?
The reviews for this one have been only so-so, and I understand why. It’s because many critics are just not prepared for a movie like this. They don’t know how to watch it, any more than an idiot fanboy does. The fanboy will ask: “Why isn’t anything exploding?” The critic will ask: “Where is the great tragedy?” They are about equally stupid questions to ask. I would enjoy seeing this movie again, and there haven’t been a lot lately that I could say that about.
Many critics didn’t like Amy Adams as Julie. I knew nothing about Julie, but was a bit surprised to learn that she is strongly disliked by some other “food bloggers.” The reasons are varied: She was disrespectful of Julia Child in her writings. She wrote “fuck” a lot. She is a spoiled bitch. The whole thing was a stunt. (Oh, yeah? I’d like to see you try it.) She was just out to make money. (Hello??? Who was making money by blogging in 2002? Who would have dreamed it was possible?) I have concluded that most of the animus, from critics and bloggers alike—but especially from bloggers—is essentially jealousy (“Damn, I wish I’d thought of that!!”) and sour grapes. Screw ‘em. Julie, as portrayed here, is a bit self-involved and a bit of a whiner. Neither is a capital crime. Get over it. I thought Amy was just fine in the role, and damn brave to allow herself to be compared to Meryl Streep.
One word about a bit of movie magic: Julia Child was 6’2” tall. Meryl Streep is 5’6”. Naturally you expect Meryl to nail Julia’s peculiar way of speaking—and she does—and her sometimes odd body language—and she does that, too. But height? Can Meryl play taller than she is? Yes, she can. Many cinematic tricks are used; I’m sure she was standing on boxes sometimes when her feet can’t be seen, and in some scenes she had to have been sitting on a pillow. And I don’t doubt that all of the extras and most of the bit parts were short people. I don’t quite know how they made her look taller than Stanley Tucci (5’8”) in side-by-side scenes. But part of it is just that she acts tall. We tall folks can see it in others, especially in very tall women, who tend to hunch down a bit, and either keep their elbows in or seem to have very little control of them. Meryl does a little of both here. It would certainly have been reasonable for screenwriter/director Nora Ephron to just ignore the height issue and pretend that Julia wasn’t tall—biographical performances need not rely on physical resemblance—but with Meryl in the part, she didn’t have to.