- User Rating: Excellent
Bang For The Buck
Pros:Meryl Streep nails her portrayal of Julia Child.
Cons:The many minor roles which were the film's main downfall.
The Bottom Line: While the main characters were good to extraordinary, the many minor roles, all more than bit parts but less than "supporting" reduced a great film to above average.
This is the portrayal of Meryl Streep’s career. It is extremely difficult to imagine she won’t get the best female performance Academy Award for her efforts. It requires exceptional acting skill and the ability to become another person, as well as having enough of that character in an actor to produce a performance of this exceptional quality. On top of that the director and casting agent must recognize and nurture that potential. All those aspects line up perfectly here. I felt I was watching Julia Child rather than an actress pretending to be Child.
The way the film is constructed could be described as a dual focus narrative with a couple of twists. (A typical dual focus narrative happens between John Travolta's and Olivia Newton-John's characters in Grease). In Julie and Julia, both characters in the dual focus are women and there is no romantic relationship between them. Also the film jumps around in history between the mid 20th century when Child was becoming a professional chef, and the late 20th century when Julie Powell a young aspiring writer cooked all of Julia Child’s recipes and blogged about her experiences. The dual focus here is the contrast and comparison of Julia Child's and Julie Powell's lives and times.
Exceptional editing skill made the transitions between the mid 20th Century Child household and the late 20th Century Powell household smooth and added to the story where less skillful editing could have become a feature that detracted from the story.
Amy Adams who has been a competent but not extraordinary actress before this role shines here. We don’t know Julie Powell, so Adams has the easier role by far, she does not have to convince us who Julie Powell is, but she creates a character who only adds to Streep’s portrayal of Child.
There are two other performances that help this film to be above average overall. Veteran character actor Stanley Tucci is brilliant and his any male actor vague familiarity was a great casting choice. He and Streep are brilliant together. Chris Messina is a younger version of Tucci with a similar career to this point and complements Adams as Julie Powell very nicely.
The film presents us with a biography of both couples, but it is presented in an entertaining manner that makes it more entertaining than the average biographical story.
The film has one glaring flaw. There are a number of minor roles, more than bit parts but less than supporting roles that are not so well cast to begin with and are made even more disappointing because they lack much chemistry with Streep's or Powell's characters. Streep attends a variety of classes while finding herself then has a number of collaborators in writing her famous cookbook. Not one of the minor supporting characters does anything to help Streep or the story.
The same is true of most of Julie Powell's friends and co-workers. A major opportunity is missed in the ever phoning, ever critical mother who is at best mildy amusing for the first few times she calls and comments. A co-worker of Powell and her boss seem like cookie cutter roles, they drag the film down and seem cliche.
Despite the film's problems with so many disappointing minor roles, the film is entertaining and worth seeing if you remember Julia Child fondly or even if you merely snicker at her mention.
This could have been an extraordinary film that we'd see every holiday season had more care been given to make the minor roles, which were this film's primary flaw.
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Movie Mood: Girl Movie
Viewing Method: Other
Film Completeness: Looked complete to me.
Worst Part of this Film: Cast