Friday, June 24, 2011

Random Film Review: Julie & Julia

Dir: Nora Ephron | USA | 2009 | 123mins

I watched this by accident – I actually got it mixed up with Glen or Glenda, the Ed Wood Jr. film about a transvestite and a pseudohermaphrodite. Or maybe I got it confused with Julia, Meryl Streep's first film in 1977. Julie & Julia is actually a blog which became a book which became a film.

The film shuttles between American celebrity chef Julia Child's autobiography of her time in Paris in the 1950s and Julie Powell's blog about cooking one of Julia Child's recipes every day for a year. Child is played with joie de vivre by always-watchable Meryl Streep; Powell is played by average Amy Adams, previously seen in Junebug and Disney's Enchanted. The Streep strand is far more captivating, with the ever-excellent Stanley Tucci playing her husband and Glee actress Jane Lynch as her sister. Unfortunately all Adams has to work with is a bland husband and sulky Chloe from 24 (Mary Lynn Rajskub), playing her best friend.

As with The Social Network, the problem of a film about a blog is it's essentially boring. And though Streep's character and performance is instantly likeable and funny, Julie's character is pretty self-centred and tedious, with her pearls and Vans shoes. It didn't help knowing that her second book, Cleaving: a Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession, is partly about an affair she had with someone after the publication of her first book. Even her best friend, Chloe, calls her a bitch.

Director Nora Ephron has all the credentials for making such a film: previously she's captured the technological zeitgeist with the saccharin Sleepless in Seattle (talk radio was becoming big at the time) and You've Got Mail (email was catching on).

One of Ephron's first screen credits was as writer for Silkwood (1983) which also starred Meryl Streep, back when everything she did reeked of seriousness. Like Robert De Niro and Chritsopher Walken (all three of them starring in a film entirely without humour, The Deer Hunter*), Streep in her old age seems to be taking on more lightweight roles and simply enjoying herself, such as recent performances in Adaption, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Altman's A Prairie Home Companion and Mamma Mia. Her latest role, Mommy and Me, is another comedy, directed by her husband in Julie & Julia, Stanley Tucci.

However, let's not forget that she can play the ice maiden very well: The Devil Wears Prada being a case in point, and she's soon to be starring as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady**. I bet she'll still be hot.

In Julie & Julia the real Julie Child reads Julia's blog and hates it. I've glanced through her blog – the amount of comments is astounding; she wrote a bland two-line post about new year's resolutions and got over three hundred comments (admittedly, this was when she was famous-ish; even so, I'm constantly surprised – and bitter – about how many comments even the most boring cookery or fashion blog gets). To have a successful blog – unlike this one, obviously – is to post obsessively about one subject (and make it either funny, obscure, ridiculously simple or appealing to every man), be it Stuff White People Like, Waiter Rants, Garfield Minus Garfield, Stuff on my Cat (why is the internet obsessed with cats?), Sleeveface (People Holding Vinyl Record Sleeves and Covers in Front of their Faces), 1000 Awesome Things, Hot Chicks With Douchebags – all of which have been made into books. Once a blog becomes a book, it inevitably loses some of its individuality and charm; ads get plastered all over it; the writers don't have time to respond to comments; presumably they're busy in meetings with Spielberg discussing the movie version. But bearing in mind that there are now over 156 million blogs in existence, it's a safe bet that your blog about your pet dog or holiday in Turkey won't become a book any time soon (though you never can tell).

*Which also starred Streep's then husband, John Cazale, in his last film. One of the (admittedly, few) advantages of dying young is leaving a great CV. Cazale's films are all great – The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, The Conversation, Dog Day Afternoon and The Deerhunter. Streep was a devoted wife to her dying husband but after he died, she was married again within six months.

**Recently the assistant prop-buyer from The Iron Lady came and picked up some stuff bought from me on eBay for the film production company's next film. The job of assistant prop-buyer used to be fun – aside from the inevitable tea and coffee making, it involved scouring quirky shops for unusual items. Now it's all done on eBay – except the tea making.

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