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Review: 'Julie and Julia'

In this summer-soufflé of a movie, Meryl Streep's rendering of Julia Child is a bravura comic performance.

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Ephron intercuts these two women's lives in fairly simpleminded fashion. The idea, I suppose, is that Julia (as I will now refer to the great lady) is the avatar and Julie the acolyte. They are linked across space and time. Both women turn their lives around through cooking, and both have adoring husbands who reap the bliss, not to mention the boeuf bourguignon.

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There's something blandly, but also pushily, inspirational about all this, especially the Julie parts. It's like being put through a candy-colored motivational seminar. Change your life! Find something you love to do and do it!

The bliss factor in this movie is so high that Ephron has to work hard, particularly with Julie, to get any conflict going. Julie's husband Eric (Chris Messina), who edits an archaeology magazine, is by any measure a saint, and so, of course, there must be a scene where he protests "I am not a saint." But except for the ever-present bottle of Tums on his nightstand, he seems to be in hog heaven throughout. It's never really explained how this couple, on a meager income, can afford all these fancy meals, but at least Ephron didn't take the low road and turn Eric into a bank robber or something. (Messina, according to the press notes, was chosen for the role in part because he "simply looked good chewing a mouthful of Lobster Thermidor.")

Amy Adams is a charming performer, but her role, not to mention her performance, just doesn't measure up to Streep's. I wish Ephron had jettisoned the Julie stuff altogether and made "Julia" instead (especially since the two women never meet). On the other hand, what actress in her right mind would want to go up against Streep in all her goony glory? (Well, Jane Lynch, in a wonderful cameo as Julia's sky-high sister, does.) One can make a case, though I wouldn't, that what Streep is doing here is more impersonation than performance. But who cares about such fine distinctions when the work is so enjoyable?

Ephron does one very difficult thing very well: She makes absolutely believable a genuinely happy marriage. They're so happy together that Ephron drags in Julia's childlessness and Paul's McCarthy-era political woes as party poopers, but her heart's not in it. In their smitten silliness, Julia and Paul are made for each other in the same way that Shakespearean lovers (and clowns) sometimes are. There are many things wrong with "Julie and Julia" but, if you're looking to get hitched, you won't find a better booster. Just make sure that one of you can cook. Grade: B- (Rated PG-13 for brief strong language and some sensuality.)

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