Julie and Julia

Julie and Julia

Nora Ephron is, as usual, sure footed. No point in reviewing this movie, just go see it. If you liked, Like Water for Chocolate or Babette’s Feast, and if you care about food, any food but especially French food, you are likely to appreciate this film. It is a small masterpiece. It is, however, worth looking at a couple of reviews. Ann Hornaday’s review in the Washington Post just sucks. I might have delved a bit deeper into the vocabulary bag to describe her review but my visceral reaction is: God, this review sucks. Where do newspapers get these people and where does some third rate hack working in a dying industry get off carping about a very bright and innovative writer who made her very own success by creating a blog when that activity was in its infancy? Hornaday is overly impressed with Streep (and herself) and apparently is unwilling to give credit to Amy Adams who carries this film. Why is Hornaday allowed to review movies?

A. O. Scott’s piece in the N.Y. Times is closer to the mark. Since I am in no way beholden to the film industry–no junkets, no freebies, no wining and dining–I will say at the outset that I am not a Meryl Streep fan. I think she has done her best work imitating more or less real people—The Devil Wears Prada, comes to mind and now Julie and Julia. Do others remember Meryl Streeps’s costars Hornaday asks. Perhaps not, but the more pertinent question is: Do folks remember Streep’s films? With the recent loss of Paul Newman, one of the gas shows on NPR was playing “name your favorite Paul Newman film.” I rattled off a half dozen without effort, most not on the list of usual suspects. Among them was Absence of Malice which co-starred Sally Field. I immediately rattled off a half dozen of her films and so on. I cannot do that for Meryl Streep without really thinking hard. I can dredge up the two academy award roles but not much else comes to mind.

I never had any reason to observe the model for her character in the Devil Wears Prada but we all had access to Julia Child, the real thing, right there on our television screen. I was at one point in a position to determine whether an entire state would see the French Chef. I though the host quirky and endowed with the worst voice I had ever heard, although there was admittedly something entirely endearing in her famous tag, “Bon appetit!” The show was successful in other markets, but Oklahoma sure as hell wasn’t Boston. We looked at half a dozen other cooking shows but it was Julia we kept. Streep nails Julia. She creates a young Julia, makes her independent, endearing and altogether likeable. Nobody dislikes Julia.

But it is Amy Adams who carries this film. She is plucky, angst infused and stuck in a bureaucratic nightmare, the aftermath of 911. She saves herself, as Julia had saved herself earlier by finding something to do. For Julia it was cooking and her famous book, for Julie it was blogging. She became the writer she wanted to be, without being strained through the publishing world sieve. I cannot envision a film about Julia Child’s My Life in France (substitute My life In Kenya) without the counterpoint of Julie’s blog.

This is a fine film. Film reviews, of course, are best used to line bird cages.
Don Singleton

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