Monday, February 08, 2010

Meryl Streep, in Julie & Julia
approximately 52 minutes and 45 seconds*
44.3% of the film

The film

Julia Child's story of her start in the cooking profession is intertwined with blogger Julie Powell's 2002 challenge to cook all the recipes in Child's first book.
You can find my short review of the film just by clicking HERE.

They should’ve just gone with Meryl all the way. Or at least for more that 50% of the movie. Meryl rules her scenes, but then we have all those boring whinny Amy Adams parts, which take the movie to an undesired recent reality.

Meryl Streep as Julia Child

Meryl Streep rules the Best Actress category! Now she finally has the most nominations here: 13 + 3 other supporting noms. Katharine Hepburn is history, with just 12 :) I guess you can say it’s finally time for Meryl to win, as it hasn’t happened in 27 years… Is this the right performance to win for? Probably not, she’s had better. But even so: autopilot-good Meryl = a fascinating performance nonetheless!

Meryl plays Julia Child, the famous French-inspired American chef, TV personality in her later life, American icon, a strong-minded independent woman, with a very distinctive voice and a remarkable height. Julia’s storyline (the woman in 1950s France discovering her passion for cooking) represents half the movie and the inspiration for modern Julie’s adventure of cooking all of Julia’s recipes. So it’s not a biopic, but a fine perspective on the life of an impressive woman.

It’s a comedy role because Meryl takes it there. Meryl IS Julia Child and takes the character (and the scenes) wherever she feels like it. With visible experience beyond words, Meryl doesn’t miss a detail: with pure joy of acting and being, she creates a fun character, a loving figure, always faithful to the happy nature of this woman.

It’s not a screwball comedy or laugh-out-loud, it’s all about feeling good, relaxed and having a nice time. And Meryl takes care of that, by giving us optimistic and love for life without looking stupid and never forgetting the dignity and the dramatic side of the character; and knowing how to create a subtly iconic figure, a role model that transcends into Julie’s (Amy Adams) storyline of devouring admiration.

But feel-good and joy is never enough for Meryl! She serves us as much of a dramatic punch without changing the genre of the movie: a tearful eye here and there, a breakdown scene somewhat hidden from the camera, the love and gratefulness while looking at her husband. Plus telling us the story without the words: the child that she could not have, that was her always-present personal tragedy.

Meryl makes it look too easy and that’s her biggest flaw. We take her for granted, and don’t realize what a generous actress she is, always thinking of the character, the story and most of all her scene partners. This movie needed to be all/more about Julia Child; it would’ve given an even bigger boost to the performance. And it’s not the big dramatic tour-de-force Meryl has gotten us used to. But even so: a great achievement and easily best element of the film! I was gonna go for 3 stars when I started writing; but this is what Meryl does to me and I gradually convinced myself of the lack of flaws. It’s an almost from me.

*the screen-time never includes photos, but does include voice-overs. And I didn’t expect so much screen-time for her, considering just half the movie is hers. The explanation: the camera’s always on Meryl in her scenes + the movie gets close to 120 minutes, unusually long for the genre. She actually gets more time on screen than in Doubt. :)


Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Four stars Alex? For shame. Meryl's biggest flaw is that she (trues to) do too much. Good biopic performances are not all about mimicry. She was just laying it on too thick, and it was just Meryl with a mannered French accent and lots of smiles. Every time I see a picture I think how lovely (and easy) Sigourney Weaver could have been here.

Of course, I stand alone on this.

Alex in Movieland said...

yes, Andrew, 4 stars! :)

that was not a French accent. it was the way Julia Child's voice sounded like.

I don't know about Sigourney, but I do think Meryl did a mighty fine job and in the spirit of the film.

Did you see the film twice? :)

Walter L. Hollmann said...

Of course four stars! She really does take the role into deeper places than you expect. I think Streep mentioned in an interview that the scene where she gets a letter from her sister announcing she's with child was written as just part of a montage or something. So Meryl, knowing Julia couldn't have a child, decided she would say "I'm so happy" through tears, and Tucci automatically went with it. Genius!

Candice Frederick said...

i think meryl streep was spot on as julia child. but i think the film as a whole was weak

dinasztie said...

It's true that she has had better, but I think she still stands out as the most deserving nominee this year. The other nominees were quite disappointing for me.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for doing her first!

I was expecting less from her here, but, oh! She did it again.

And what's so great about her performance is that it's so unnoticeable that it's mimicry. It's not like "Oh, I'm trying to be Julia Child." Instead, she does a human being out of our idea of Child.

So, 5 stars for her!

Anyway, thanks for this one. Goodluck!

Nigel Maruva Chikukwa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nigel Maruva Chikukwa said...

I get where Andrew is coming from. Morgan Freeman's "Invictus" is a perfect example. It's obvious that he took a few strands of Mandela and then added his own in order to complete the performance.

However, Andrew remember how Streep said the Julia Child role was an ode to her mother (Golden Globes). That tells me she understood other ways of handling this biopic. It's just that she may have decided to resort to full mimicry so that her homage is justified.

I personally like the performance. Streep did what she knows how. She might not be my favorite to win but I still can't over look the fact that she deserves those four stars.

joe burns said...

I sort of agree with Andrew here. I would give her two or three stars. Probably three or two and a half. I could see Meryl through that at times and I think it was too exaggerated. But I still think she got the spirit of Julia Child and was a lot of fun. So probably two and a half from me.