8
Nov 09

Julia & Julienne

Do You See + FTPost a comment • 256 views

This is one where the critical consensus was exactly that. Everyone agreed that Nora Ephron’s Julie & Julia is half a good film, that half being Meryl Streep’s biopic bit of Julia Child. But is that any surprise? One half of the film is a light telling of a woman learning how to do something wonderful, in a picturesque Paris post war. It has the sweep of history from Stanley Tucci playing her husband who is a diplomat, it has the Gallic sexism of the time and in Julia Child it has a wonderful role, which Streep more or less does a broad impression of whilst wearing stilts. It may not offer much in the way of insight, but it is at least a sweet story of a nice person overcoming the few obstacles life has put in her way to become happy. And it also has Jane Lynch as her even taller sister, which is always going to be good.

But does the Julia Child story deserve a film to itself? The plus point of the framing device is the story of Julie Powell’s blog, whilst self obsessed and deliberately small, means the Julia Child stuff takes up just about as much time as it needs to. A full feature Julia Child film may throw some childhood in, extend into the television career and would probably have had extended cooking montages. All of which would have been padding. The Julie Powell section, whilst a lot less interesting, allows us contrast. In the end no matter how winsome Amy Adams is, her self-pitying blogger is always going to come out badly next to star of screen, larger than life Julia Child (and indeed Meryl Streep who also battered her into submission in Proof earlier in the year).

Nora Ephron was the wrong person to tease this set-up into anything more interesting than the sum of its hugely uneven parts. But then its hard to make a successful film about a blog, blogging like any film about writers (see this weeks Bright Star) is a tough thing to make interesting. At least the Julia Child blog was active, and we get the lobster pratfalls et al. But most of the Julie Powell story is not so much about how cooking frees her, but rather how it was an oblique way into what she wanted to do which was have a bestselling book. The modern sequences should have been filmed on DV, gritty guerilla documentary style, possibly by the real Julie Powell. Then you would have had the sense of the different world these two women live in. Expectation of success is a given to Julie Powell, to Julia Child it is almost unobtainable. And thus their sense of entitlement is wholly different. Of course Nora doesn’t really bring this out all that successfully, as she equally fails at making any of the food seem all that nice. Stanley Tucci is usually your guarantee of a decent foodie picture, where here the most significant food sequences involve chopping mountains of onions. Julienne carrots would at least have made thematic sense.

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