I love to eat and to cook. I’ve got chef skills with the knife, can cut a mound of paper thin onion slices quickly, and think it is fun to spend a half hour sieving a sauce so that it is ever so smooth. So Julie and Julia was fun, if for no other reason than it was about food. To watch a Julia Child bio-pic was a delight: who knew that to learn to cut onions like a chef she stood in her Paris kitchen practicing until no one could enter the kitchen; or a sexual being and not just a strange older woman on TV. Meryl Streep’s performance is certainly what makes the film fun, bringing to the film a liveliness and exploratory a joy as Julia first finds French food and then strives to master it. And the food looks good…if only one could eat like that more often.
The film is more than a joyous ode to the joys of French cooking, though. There is still Julie. If Julia makes one want to eat French food or at least watch a rerun of her cooking show, Julie drags the film down with pedantic problems and frustrations that grow tiresome quickly. When she cooks things are going just fine. I want to see how she fails or succeeds (at least during the film, after I could careless). It is when she leaves the kitchen and the fights with the husband and the souless work and 9-11 intrude that the film is just banal. What is worse Julia is always there: “Julia wouldn’t have done this. How would Julia have done it? Julia was perfect.” Anyone watching it will understand she is overdoing her love of Julia, but it still isn’t that interesting to watch.
Unfortunately, Julie’s hagiography taints the Julia story. Although I know they are from different sources, the Julia story now seems too perfect and despite the fun it feels uncomfortable as if one is being feed something artificial, something other than the pure butter Julia and Julie both fetish over. As a light move, Julie and Julia succeeds, and even Julie can be funny, but Julie feels as passing as the millions of blog posts that are generated daily. I’m not sure if there is a digital equivalent of 5 seconds on the lips, 5 years on the hips, but Julie is certainly not worth the indulgence that Julia is.