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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

We went to Julie & Julia over the weekend. Maybe I'm over-thinking it, but my gosh Nora Ephron is a lazy filmmaker. I suppose the critical decision was to use the blog as a hook, rather than just making a movie about Julia Child. I enjoyed the blog when it was an ongoing project, but making a movie about blogging is like making a movie about sending email. It means that there are going to be scenes where the characters are typing, then pushing "Enter" except in movies the keyboards always have a button that says "Send". It means that voiceovers will tell us what has happened, instead of showing us. It means that the great strength of film as a medium-- the ability to depict action-- will be squandered.

It also means that half of the screen time will be devoted to an appealing ingenue, rather than to a seasoned pro giving an outstanding performance. The Devil Wears Prada wasn't Nora Ephron's fault, of course, but you'd think she'd have learned something from it. "Prada" is a good example of how a movie can outdo its source-- in that particular instance on the strength of an outstanding performance. (Two, actually-- Stanley Tucci is great in "Prada" and "Julie".) The title tells the tale-- in what universe does Julie Powell get billing over Julia Child? It is impossible for me to imagine that the audience for this picture wouldn't have gone to a straight adaptation of "My Life in France", so why bother with the rest of this?

So much time was spent showing Amy Adams typing that even the food seemed to suffer. The fillet of sole is the only great looking dish that I can recall from the movie-- the much hyped Boeuf Bourguignon gets short shrift, and we don't get much of a sense of what that boned duck dish is about either. Gags about boiling lobsters were funny 32 years ago, but are shop worn today.

Much has been made in the reviews I've read about the techniques that were used to make Streep appear taller-- but no-one I've read mentions that at the end, when the scene shifts from Julie gazing at Julia in the kitchen at the Smithsonian to Julia entering her kitchen, that Streep is shot in full length, wearing a pair of heels that have to be six inches high. What kind of movie-making is that? Up to that point when her feet were in the picture she was wearing flats (as in the scene when she is sitting with her husband with her feet on a coffee table) or a low heel. The huge heels she sports in the final scene are so out of character for Julia Child, and so distracting, that the whole illusion is shot to hell.

I'm vexed, I guess, because I am a Julia Child fan. She is well served by Streep's performance, but deserved more.

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