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Review: 'Julie & Julia': Meryl Streep Shows Her Brilliance

August 4th, 2009 10:28am EDT
Julie & JuliaMy God: Please enjoy every precious moment Meryl Streep ever spends in front of a movie camera. People wax poetically about the days when Bette Davis, Greta Garbo (anyone else that Kim Carnes mentioned?), Katharine Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman and Vivien Leigh graced the silver screen: The Golden Age of Hollywood! True, true (with a special emphasis on Bergman that, umm, someone may have a crush on) but, right now, arguably, the best actress that ever lived still humbles us with her presence. The odds are that no popular music artist will ever record a song based on her, but, goddammit, they should. Meryl Streep is a national treasure and she completely owns the role of Julia Child.

"Julie & Julia" tells two separate, but yet, sort of, related stories. There's the aforementioned future famous chef, Julia Child (Streep), set, for the most part, in the 40's and 50's where she lives in Paris with her husband, Paul (Stanley Tucci), who's employed by the U. S. Office of Strategic Services. The other story focuses on future famous blogger Julie Powell (Amy Adams), in 2002, who's a government employee handling insurance claims. You see: Julie is miserable. Her husband, Eric (Chris Messina), encourages her to start a food blog. She does -- with much thought about a specific deadline, which becomes 365 days, 524 Julia Child recipes -- because Julia Child wasn't always Julia Child, she had to start somewhere, too.


Obsession takes over; Julie's life becomes consumed by Julia Child. Meanwhile, back in the 50's, Julia Child is taking cooking classes -- back when she wasn't, you know, Julia Child -- to pass the time while her husband is at the office and her sister does not happen to be visiting -- played by the absolutely outstanding Jane Lynch. A lot of the time when a film tries to toggle between to separate stories, favoritism takes over and a preference for one storyline supersedes the other. That doesn't seem to be a problem with "Julie & Julia" as both storylines are quite engaging. The separate storylines benefit Amy Adams, who is beyond charming, but doesn't have to try and hold her own against the juggernaut that is Meryl Streep in this film.

Meryl Streep is NOT Julia Child -- a personal pet peeve when an actor is described AS someone; please, spare the world your cliché -- Meryl Streep is better than Julia Child! (I see your cliché and raise you.) Every word that emits from her mouth is shear, absolute, genius. It's not a caricature. Dan Aykroyd did a pretty good caricature of Child on "SNL" in the 70's -- a sketch we see in the film -- what Streep does is reach into the inner core of who Child was and brings that essence to life without making a mockery of her or her vocal pattern. Have you ever heard Julia Child speak? This is not an easy feat. Streep, somehow, makes every word Child says funny, poignant, endearing and completely full of absolute life. Every damn word.

Julie & Julia

Image © Columbia Tristar Marketing Group, Inc.

It's odd, in a way, watching this film because there is little doubt about the outcome of Powell's cooking challenge. We are, well, watching a film about her experience that was based on her book. That would, probably, lead even the most laymen of viewers to realize, early, that, yes, she must have had a pretty healthy dose of success. Considering that director Nora Ephron -- her best film as a director -- is telling two stories, the film does run a little long. At times it feels Powell is a bit too obsessed with Child (Hey: it's Halloween! Time to dress as Julia Child!) bordering on cheese. But, any digression is quickly subsided by the brilliance of Meryl Streep's Child. Streep may not have Gretta Garbo's stand off sighs, but she's the greatest actor working today and can take a film that may normally be rated a "B" and instantly turn it into a...

Grade: A-

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Mike Ryan
"Mike's Pulse" is a column written by transplanted Midwesterner and current New Yorker Mike Ryan. For any compliments or complaints -- preferably the former -- you may contact Mike directly at miker@starpulse.com
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