One can only imagine the positive delight of foodies near and far upon hearing the news of Julie & Julia. A feature film that glorifies good food and people who live to eat? Damn it, count me in. Finally, a movie that doesn’t condemn food (b/c it’s food’s fault that we’re fat, not ours) or the process by which it is made. What I didn’t know when I signed on to see the movie was that the main course would be a heaping of dull, flavorless slop characterized by insipid dialogue and plagued by a desultory storyline that failed to capture my heart, imagination, and stomach. The banal was punctuated by a few precious moments (Paul’s v-day declaration of love and the subsequent palpitations of Julia’s oversized construction paper heart), but overall, the film was a poorly executed dish lacking zest and, really, life.
I usually find Amy Adams cute and harmless, if not likeable. But as Julie i thought she came off as a conventionally bourgeois, self-centered, and insubstantial ditz. The lobster scene, when she squeals and prances away from the pot of boiling crustaceans, made me want to vomit, but I suppose all females are squeamish wimps like that, so she was just representing the common woman, right? Also, are all failed writers as “woe is me” as she starts out in the movie? Her character struck me as whiny and self-righteous from the getgo and I just could not muster up the sympathy for her premature middle-aged bald man kind of crisis, the cliche around which the entire movie revolves. Now that I think of it, I could have done without the entire Julie half of the movie and would have enjoyed a film solely on the life of the intrepid Julia Child far more (that atleast would have eliminated the disjointed attempt at paralleling the two women’s lives). While Meryl is obviously the more accomplished actress and star (note the singular) of the film, I thought it was not so much about the quality of acting as the plain fact that some people’s lives are worth making into movies and others are not.
I was also disappointed that I wasn’t able to connect with Julia as much as I thought I would. The Julia half of the movie focused too much on the travails of publishing the cookbook and not enough on how she developed as a cook, to the detriment of her character’s development and relatability. It seemed like overnight her competitive spirit propelled her from pathetic homemaker to rock star in the kitchen, and the absence of the formative process of that character cut me off from relating to and fully embracing her. Sure, she was a charming, larger than life personality and kudos to Meryl for replicating that onscreen, but she did not come together as the kind of accessible home cook the movie was trying to depict her as (as evidenced by Julie’s mawkish insistence on hearing Julia’s voice in her head and feeling her by her side). I appreciate that the rigor of the publishing process revealed Child’s perseverence and steadfast sense of purpose, but just how did she come up with that sublime hollandaise sauce recipe? I’m sure there was a good story involved that could have made for a delightful and enlightening scene. At the end of the day, I care more about how those recipes came to life than how the book got published, and I think that would have made for a better movie as well. Voila, my two cents on the film.