The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Review: Julie and Julia

Written by: Amy Brown, Special to CC2K

Meryl Streep dominates the kitchen in this winning movie.

ImageToday’s Food Network programming is like professional wrestling.

As I sat down in the theater to watch Julie & Julia, I overheard this statement from the row behind me. Two women were discussing the merits of Julia Child versus the merits of shows like Top Chef – staged cooking, like staged wrestling. I laughed, but it made sense. Then, one woman spouted off a statistic that the Food Network draws more nightly viewers than any of the cable news networks. Both women were amazed, but it makes sense. What do Americans like to do? We like to eat.

Well, this movie is all about food. It’s perfect. 

Meryl Streep is Julia Child. She does not portray Julia Child – it’s more like she’s been possessed with the late cook’s spirit. Seriously, she’s that good. It would have been so easy to turn the character into a caricature (see: Dan Aykroyd’s Saturday Night Live interpretation). But Streep howls “Bonjooooour!” in that familiar (for those who are old enough, anyway) half-drunk, half-demented voice and it’s clear she studied for a long time to do this woman justice. Stanley Tucci portrays Paul Child, the loving husband who ensured Julia Child didn’t go into the field of hat making with the question, “Well, you like hats, but what do you really like to do?”

“EAT!” responds Streep, as she immediately connects with Americans everywhere. And thus we, the audience, are thrust into the story of how Julia Child became That Julia Child.

But the movie is called Julie & Julia. Julie refers to Julie Powell (Amy Adams), government employee by day, blogger by night. She’s sad because she had to move to Queens and her friends are the most awful women on the planet (I am not exaggerating). To fulfill her life (and also because she needs a premise around which to base her blog), she decides to cook her way through Julia Child’s cookbook in one year. All 524 recipes. Chris Messina (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Six Feet Under), her husband, endures neglect and gastrointestinal discomfort in the name of Internet fame.

The problem here, however, is that for every scene of Meryl Streep howling and beating something up with a rolling pin, there’s a scene of Amy Adams sitting in front of her laptop looking bewildered. Amy Adams has wonderful acting skills, but Meryl Streep can out-act just about every other person in Hollywood. Combine that with the fact that Streep got the more interesting role (unless you really, really care if Julie Powell is going to burn the beef stew), and Adams’ scenes can, at times, feel like filler. Then again, that probably happens to most people sharing screen time with Meryl Streep.

However, every single person in this movie was great. Jane Lynch (Role Models, The 40 Year Old Virgin) has a small role as Julia’s sister Dorothy, and she made me laugh so hard I feared for my safety. But overall, this movie is what most people would assume it to be anyway: a Meryl Streep vehicle. Seriously, though, she’s great. And she stabs a lobster between the eyeballs. It almost made me want to cook.