JULIE & JULIA

JulieOverall Impression – Actually and totally two distinct stories: 2 heroes, 2 plots, 2 arcs, with a connection between the stories that is ‘wahfer theen.’

THE FOUR QUESTIONS

Who are the main characters? – Julie Powell & Julia Child.

What are they trying to accomplish? – (JULIE) Professional: Cook her way through Julia Child’s cookbook.  Personal: Become a writer.  Private: Feel like she’s got value and worth.

(JULIA) Professional: Write and publish a French cookbook for English speakers. Personal: Become a writer. Private: Feel like she’s got value and worth.

Who are trying to stop them? – (JULIE) No one, really.  She is caught in a numbing job as a civil servant, she has a doubting mother, but the real villain is her own insecurity.

(JULIA) No one, really.  She is an ambassador’s wife who meets small resistances on her way to, first becoming a Cordon Bleu chef, and then a published writer.

What happens if they fail? – Not much in either case.  (JULIE) Julie claims to have never finished anything, so cooking her way through Julia Child’s cookbook in one year would represent a huge personal victory for her, however she has a wonderful husband and great friends who will still be there for her if she fails.

(JULIA) Julia also has a wonderful husband and great friends.  If she fails to get her book published, she will be unsatisfied but her life would continue.

THE FOUR ARCHETYPES

Orphan – (JULIE) Julie has an emotionally terrible job handling insurance claims in the wake of 9/11.  She’s just moved to a small apartment over a pizza shop and is struggling to find something she can do that feels valuable to her.

(JULIA) Julia has just relocated to Paris (awwww, poor girl!) and even though she loves Paris she is trying to find something to do to fill her life and give it more meaning.

Wanderer – (JULIE) Julie gets the idea to do what she knows…cook…and share her journey through the new medium of blogging.  She starts working her way through all 536 recipes in Julia Child’s cookbook, setting a deadline of one year to cook them all, wondering if anyone is even reading her blog.

(JULIA) Julia loves cooking and decides to become a Cordon Bleu chef.  She finishes the course and begins to teach with two friends who pull her into their plan to write a cookbook.

Warrior – (JULIE) As Julie’s readership increases, so does her commitment and drive to finish what she set out to accomplish, taking a toll on her marriage.

(JULIA) Julia begins writing her opus cookbook, navigating the waters of partnership with her two co-writers as well the various rejections she gets from publishers.  Additionally, as her husband gets reposted to different cities she goes with him, never giving up her goal of finishing the book no matter how long it may take.

Martyr – (JULIE) With her marriage a bit shakier because of her journey of self-discovery (at least, that’s what we’re wanted to feel), Julie has to back off of her drive to reassess what’s important in her life.  Her husband comes back to her and with his encouragement, she accomplishes her goal.

(JULIA) For the life of me, I cannot think of anything that Julia Child gives up to reach her goal.

AND, IN THE END…

JULIE & JULIA is a good movie, but not a great movie.  Ultimately the stakes are too slight and both stories runs out of dramatic steam in and around act three, as evident by the weak martyr sections.  The connection between the stories is intellectual and thematic, and ultimately not as satisfying as it may have been had both Julie and Julia been in each other’s world, and with a connection between the stories stronger than the revelation that the elderly Julia Child was unimpressed with Julie’s efforts in the blogosphere.

What is fabulous about JULIE & JULIA is Meryl Streep.  Just the night before I watched THE RIVER WILD, another Meryl Streep movie, on cable with my wife.  After seeing JULIE AND JULIA my wife commented in admiration “If I didn’t know Meryl Streep, I wouldn’t believe both parts were played by the same person.”

This is a movie that will succeed on a variety of merits, its story being the least of them.  Meryl Streep will get yet another Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Julia Child, Amy Adams was well cast, the film was pretty to watch and very entertaining.  Was that the sound of adults laughing I heard in the theater last night?  Yes!

In spite of an act three that fell like a partially collapsed soufflé, JULIE & JULIA will definitely appeal to an audience hungry for a story without robots and explosions…unless you consider an overcooked Boeuf Bourguignon a special effect.

— Jeffrey Alan Schechter

3 Responses to “JULIE & JULIA”

  1. David Goulet August 11, 2009 at 8:15 am #

    Jeff,

    I was eager to see your review of this one — mostly because it saves me from having to see it to prove my own hunch. The minute I saw the trailer I heard your voice (I think it was your voice but it could have been the kid behind me in the theater) asking “what are the stakes?”

    Apparently the only ‘stakes’ in this one were medium rare.

  2. totallywrite August 11, 2009 at 8:22 am #

    Good line about the stakes…wish I had said it! DARN YOU, GOULET!

  3. Almeyda September 3, 2009 at 3:39 am #

    Good line about the stakes…wish I had said it! DARN YOU, GOULET!;…

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