Five Stars for Film, No Stars for DVD Special Features Manip
IVE | California USA | 11/18/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Well, I guess it's finally happened...the consumer and film buff who does not own a Blue-Ray compatible DVD player is now officially SOL. The standard DVD release of Julie and Julia contains as special features only a commentary track and behind-the-scenes featurette. To get the full array of special features, one must purchase the Blue-Ray version of the film, AND of course, a Blue-Ray dvd player. Here are the features NOT available on the standard dvd: tour of Julia Child's kitchen in the Smithsonian; featurette "Friends and Family Remember Julia Child;" and "Cooking Lessons," with Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, and other renowned chefs preparing several of Julia Child's best-loved dishes. Why can't the studio release a two-disc special edition in the standard format for consumers like me who don't own the latest home entertainment equipment? I loved the film (especially The Divine Ms. Streep), loved Julia Child's book "My Life in France," very much liked Julie Powell's book "J & J," and can't tell you how much I've been looking forward to owning the DVD. I'm miffed, and in no position to go out and buy myself a new DVD player in this economy, not even at Christmas. This really stinks. So, five stars for the film itself, no stars for the DVD release manipulation."
Behind Every Great Woman There Stands a Great Man . . .
Diana F. Von Behren | Kenner, LA USA | 08/08/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"What in the world does television and concocting-French-food-in-America pioneer Julia Child have in common with just 30-something government employee turned food blogger, Julie Powell?
Other than the love of food, oodles of butter and a big project to fill the need for purpose, the two main characters in Nora Ephron's biopic, "Julie and Julia" share great marriages with men that are not put off by their mate's desire for self-identity defined by more than a few little bouts of self-absorption. Like a good soufflé, Ephron folds the stories told in two books, Powell's "Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously" and Child's "My Life in France" without deflating the overall mixture, although this reviewer would have enjoyed more scenes with the wonderfully talented Meryl Streep who redeems herself quite well (all high-pitched voice, champagne bubbly laughter and squared shoulders) as the indomitable and effusive Julia from her most un-defining role as Donna in that "Mamma Mia! The Movie (Widescreen)" debacle.
Ephron depicts 1950s Paris with a foodie's appreciation for what that city did and still does for the world of cuisine--from the very first glimpse of Julia's luncheon of sole meunière--the waiter delectably filets the fish's sumptuous flesh tableside to the audiences' very audible groans of anticipation of and appreciation for its buttery taste, but she also does well by Long Island City and its tangle of grey-tinged tenements, elevated trains and apartments over pizza parlors. Somehow, both Julie and Julia know where to get their ingredients and manage beat, chop (extremely amusing is a scene of Julia alongside a mountain of practice cut onions) and coerce calf's feet, lobsters and ducks into exquisite works of edible art. The luscious chocolate cakes, whipped creams and raspberry mousse tantalizes like the food porn that it is--a sensual and lascivious reminder to what is truly important in life--you will leave the theater hungry.
Along that line, the two couples, Paul (Stanley Tucci) and Julia and Eric (Chris Messina) and Julie either act as the aphrodisiacs for the food or allow the food to whisk them away in the general direction of the bedroom where dessert or in some cases appetizers segue into the joy of sex and more sex--no wonder Julia was always smiling. Both male characters offer their women encouragement along the lines of the supporting architectural buttresses on the Cathedral of Notre Dame even when faced by what may seem a bit of an "I Love Lucy" type scheme. Regardless, both these ladies made their ideas work whether by design or serendipity and Ephron, wisely asserts that it is their good marriages that deserve the credit--even though the real life Powell has an affair which she chronicles in her not-yet-published memoir about learning the art of the butcher.
Amy Adams' portrayal of Julie Powell seems a little seeped in too much sugar especially if one has read the Julie/Julia Project blog or the book that bears the same name as the film. In her version, Ephron sanitizes the conservative-hating Powell, cleans up her apartment, washes out her rather profane mouth and thankfully eliminates the girlfriend dramas that take up a third of the memoir. However, the slim-figured Adams' whose character claims to have gained weight after a year of rich French cuisine simply seems slim and still glows with that Giselle insouciance and naiveté she did so well in the Disney film "Enchanted (Widescreen Edition)." Even so, Adams' innate cuteness and 20-something sense of searching works adequately as a foil for the larger than life Streep as the formidable Child.
Bottom Line? Nora Ephron's "Julie and Julia" chronicles the projects of two women from two very different generations with similar needs. As a combination foodie/chick flick, it works very well in its depiction of determination and the power of a slow and steady perseverance that ultimately leads to success. However, "Julie and Julia" main thrust seems to be a tribute to good marriages where behind every great women stands an equally great and supportive male. Recommended. Diana Faillace Von Behren "reneofc" "
ALL THE ACTORS SHINE
Elton T. Elliott | 08/08/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I went to see the movie, Julie and Julia solely on the idea that any project Meryl Streep is involved in would automatically be good. I couldn't imagine before going to see it how they would possibly work the storyline because it was based on two memoirs, one each by the two women involved. Meryl Streep played Julia Child and Amy Adams played Julie Powell. Because of her immense respect for Julia Child and her love of cooking Julie Powell decided to set aside 365 days to cook for her husband and herself and as it turned out several other people 524 of Julia Child's recipes. It started out as a way of breaking the boredom of her day job, an escape from having to live in such a tiny apartment, and a means of teaching her self-discipline by sticking to a planned regimen on a day to day basis. The result, however, turned out to be much more than that.
Julia Child had and Julie Powell has a very important knowledge about what makes good food great. Great food is like great sex; both of them have to be more than just "ok" to bring a smile to your face that lasts for days every time you think about it. And both women shared in common the idea that delicious French food should be available to the average American family even if you don't have servants that cook for you or an income that allows you to eat out at a fabulous French restaurant any time you like. Both of them had wonderful husbands who supported and encouraged their dreams of rising above the drab existence of living vicariously on the accomplishments of their men. The film captures beautifully the difficulty of that task for both Julie and Julia. Both of them had forces fighting against their achieving their goals, but the love that was evident in each of their marriages overcame every one of them.
One of the posters for the film is a one-sided poster with a black background, two eggs (one brown and one white), and the question posed, "Passion. Ambition. Butter. Do you have what it takes?" When the movie is over, that question's answer is for both women a resounding "Yes, but as is always the case, neither of them did it alone". The fact that they didn't do it alone though takes nothing away from the uniqueness of their accomplishments. "
This needs more salt...
Andrew Ellington | I'm kind of everywhere | 12/24/2009
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I want to start by saying that this is not a simple case of `Meryl Streep is better than Amy Adams' even if a lot of other reviewers want to paint it as that. This is much more complicated than that. In fact, Amy Adams is fine here. She has her moments of charming, her moments of intensity, her moments of hysteria and overall she is adequate. The real issue I have with `Julie & Julia' is that it doesn't live up to the subject matter and the script is a sloppy and uninspired mess.
That, and a few `other' things.
The film shifts from Julia Child's life in Paris and Julie Powell's life in New York. Streep portrays Child as she begins to take a hold of her own identity, learning to cook and channeling her good-natured mentality into a healthy and respectable career. Adams portrays Powell as she tries to break away from the downtrodden near pathetic path she has chosen by finding herself in Julia Child's recipes. It is clear that Powell is inspired and in awe of Child and wants to feel a connection with her.
For me, this all sounds like it could produce delicious results. Sadly, this meal is rather bland.
I'm going to go ahead and start with the acting, since that is what is getting all the attention. When I first saw this film in the theater all those months ago, it was the first bit `potential Oscar contender'. Everyone had been raving Streep as `on her way to the podium for her THIRD Oscar' and so I was excited. I love Meryl Streep. When I walked out of this film I thought to myself, `she was good, and funny, and charming, but there is no way she is the best'. Then I saw a few other films (`Bright Star' and `An Education' to be exact) and there was no question in my mind that what Carey Mulligan does in `An Education' is not only the best performance of this year, but is a complete marvel and one of the best performances in any category of this ENTIRE DECADE. After watching this film for a second time last night I found myself even MORE confused about Streep's Oscar buzz (and countless critic award wins). Meryl Streep is undoubtedly a force in front of the camera. Nearly everything she does is phenomenal. Sadly, for me, her performance here is a tad too far over the top. She is hammy and, while that quality can at times be appealing (her constant jovialness is infective), the script is so dense and hollow that it barely allows Streep to expound on the WOMAN that was Julia Child. There are subtle hints that something is brewing beneath the surface (her sincere breakdown after learning of her sister's pregnancy) but this film is more focused on the food (which all looks delicious BTW) than giving us a real taste of who Julia was as a person.
Streep is entertaining, but she is FAR from Oscar worthy.
Like I said, Amy Adams is adequate. She doesn't really do anything wrong, but the whole idea of her character and her life is far too clichéd to be anything noteworthy. The snag in her marriage and that whole FORCED breakup is ridiculous, but totally something you saw coming the moment she said, in her blog, that she was `risking her marriage' for this experiment. Her manic desperation can at times be endearing and entertaining, but nothing we haven't seen a million times before.
As far as the significant others go, Stanley Tucci is the best thing about this movie (end of discussion) and Chris Messina is the worst. I love the quiet and supportive nature of Stanley Tucci. He just has this softness and this endearing quality to him. I adored him in `The Devil Wears Prada' and I find his work here, alongside Streep, to be equal parts charming and engaging. His warmth never feels forced or awkward (in contrast, when Adams delivers the SAME TOAST she fails miserably at giving it any kind of natural affection). Messina is just an obnoxious stereotype who fails to do anything by overwork his character, and that disgusting way he eats his food haunts my dreams.
In the end, the biggest culprit here is Nora Ephron, the films director and screenwriter. Because of her, the film lacks any real bite whatsoever. It is bland and boring, overly long and full of generic clichés that make this far less than a film of its nature should be. This is supposed to be an inspirational `coming of age', romantic comedy set to the tone of a biopic, but it lacks any of the chemistry and warmth that make those specific film genres so lovely."
Interesting that Ephron's other film with Streep was called
John Grabowski | USA | 01/07/2010
(2 out of 5 stars)
"But actually, rather than too much spice, the problem with this film is blandness, an incredible amount of blandness. I've never before seen a movie with *no* friction, no real conflict, no action--and by "action" I don't mean blowing up Death Stars. Julie & Julia made me think of a scene from, of all things, an episode of Frasier. Niles and Marty somehow get their video rentals mixed up at the store and take each other's movies home. Niles gets a Charles Bronson film, which he's surprised to find suspenseful. "I felt the same way about your movie, My Dinner With Andre," his father chides him. "Talk about suspense. I kept wondering, 'Will they order dessert?' 'Who'll get the check?'"
That pretty much sums up my reaction to Julie and Julia, a film based on not one but two memoirs. It's hard to get excited about a picture where the plot hinges on burned beef or improperly chopped vegetables. Of course I expect stuff like that, and it's in all the ads, but I also thought, as the movie went on, there's be more, that we'd discover something deeper about Julia Child, or maybe even Julie Powell, her imitator. But no, 3/4 of the way into the film and we're still watching Julie stumble through recipes and break into tears when one of them doesn't come out. Nora Ephron, who has a reputation I cannot fathom, directs it all like a half-brained sitcom, broadly and for forced laughs. (You just know a dessert creation she's taking to work for her colleagues is going to go splat on the sidewalk as she's transporting it, don't you?) Now, I didn't expect this to be a Bergman film, but can't we do better than this?
To give just one example: Julie's boyfriend, whose purpose in the movie is little more than to cheer Julie on, has a mild fight with her at one point and leaves. Now, she could have decided to give up cooking: imagine her throwing Julie Child's cookbook into the dumpster and saying on her blog that she gives up. (I know this didn't really happen, but something has to spice this story up.) Imagine her mother trying to talk her back into it, only to hear her say No, she's decided, she's a failure. Again. Then in a heartwarming moment, boyfriend returns--with a present: he's rescued the cookbook from the dumpster, cleaned it up, and gift wrapped it. He hands it back to her, and she resolves to start cooking again, right then and there, at one in the morning or whatever. Okay, I know that's a big "Hollywood moment" in itself, but it's better than what actually happens, which is almost nothing. She even tells her mother she's not really done with cooking, so you know nothing's really at risk. The story just trudges on.
Many critics have at least praised Streep's end of it, for her channeling of Julia Child. While she does her usual admiral job, at the same time when it was over I couldn't help think that even her performance was one-dimensional. I'm sure Ms. Child wasn't chipper falsetto voice and awkward mannerisms all the time, but that's what we see on the screen, whether she's hosting her TV show or making love to her husband, whose purpose in this film is little more than to cheer her on. (There's a throw-away bit about some McCarthyism witch-hunting that's gone in the blink of an eye.) I would have like to see Meryl's take on JC in her more intimate moments of self-doubt or reflection. Instead we get a performance that's largely impersonation rather than exploration.
Some impressive people worked on this film. Ann Roth is the finest costume designer there is right now (excepting maybe Sandy Powell). Alexandre Desplat, who gave us one of the most memorable film scores in recent years (Birth), provides the music. Scott Rudin is down as one of the producers, always a good sign. Their giant talents don't seem well-utilized by Ephron. The film is shot like a TV show, mostly in medium shots. It ping-pongs rather predictably between the two stories, trying to cement really trivial elements common to them both. There's a certain absurdity to the obsession with *food* that the film, in its quest to take all this so seriously, just misses. In one scene Julie is so excited that someone is coming to dinner at her house. This is built up and then we cut away just before she reveals the person, to build up suspense. Yet when we return to Julie's story and discover the name, we've never heard of her and Julie admits that even though the woman is a "food legend" two months ago she hadn't either. I think it'd have been funnier to punch that up, as in, He: Who's that? She: I don't have the slightest idea either, but I hear she's important! Instead Ephron seems to think we are supposed to get all excited about this person. She seems to think her audience is exclusively trendy Manhattanite foodies. And even they get very little "food porn." There's actually few shots of luscious food being prepared in this movie, and as Roger Ebert correctly observes, Julie's husband just seems to gobble down whatever he gets, grateful that, at midnight on a worknight, he's finally getting something to eat. (I won't even go into the fact that I don't buy this story actually happened. 524 recipes in 365 days? Even if you never get sick or have an off-day, that's almost two recipes a day. Some of them require hours and hours of prep-time. And she held a full-time job. I'll just be charitable and say I am pretty confident she skipped over at least a few items. I have a feeling that's the reason in real life Julia Child was not enamored with Miss Julie. She seemed to regard the whole blog as little more than a publicity stunt.)
Ultimately I think J&J says more about the age we live in than anything about Julie *or* Julia. We seem so desperate for celebrities in this internet age that we get excited about people who do rather trivial things. Yes, I think cooking all 524 recipes in the Julia Child cookbook is, when all is said and done, trivial. We are starved for heroes, so much so that we have to manufacture so many of them. When we do get a real one on occasion (Sully Sullenberger) we overdose on him. So we fill up the vacuum with talentless reality stars, over-the-hill rockers, and people like Julie Powell, who judging by reaction to her second book is already past her 15 minutes.
The movie's transfer to disk looks just fine. There were supplements, but I had absolutely no interest. I'm glad that, at 60, when most major stars are forced into retirement, Meryl Streep is still working regularly. I just wish there were more projects out there worthy of her talent."