Is there anything better than being blown away by a film out of the blue? That “I can’t believe how great that was” enthusiasm as the credits roll? My latest surprise revelation was Julie & Julia. I had only middling expectations going in. I’m not really the target audience and the critical reaction had been mixed: Meryl Streep was supposed to be wonderful as usual but only her half of the film was worthwhile.

Well I found myself entirely enchanted. Yes of course Meryl turns in another terrific performance. But it’s an all-around entertaining time and I didn’t even feel like the “Julie” part paled significantly compared to the “Julia” part.

Sticking with Julie for a bit, I think it’s true to say that a story of one woman blogging a cooking challenge isn’t going to be a cinematic as the Julia Childs story of revolutionizing cooking forever. And while I would agree the script doesn’t develop Julie as well as it perhaps could have to make the viewer care for her more, the Julie story is not a notable let-down compared to Julia.

Maybe it’s a generational thing, but I related to Julie. We’re a hyper-connected and creative generation and that yearning to make a mark in the world – or at least to find a worthwhile outlet for expression – resonated. (I mean, here I am writing on a blog after all.) Maybe Julie’s need to create and connect and overshare just doesn’t have the same impact on people who didn’t grow up with Live Journal. One’s connection with Julie can vary widely, but I imagine it helps if the entire point of her story isn’t dismissed outright.

The fact that Julie isn’t necessarily a likable character doesn’t detract from the film. In fact I think it probably makes it more interesting. Without a dynamic character that’s allowed to have some large flaws I think the Julie story really would fall flat. And it’s nice to see Amy Adams in a role where she can dial down the chirpiness.

That said, it’s undeniable that the Julia story is wonderful and the real heart of the film. Streep is just delightful and I found the journey through Childs’ life fascinating and enjoyable. One of the more interesting elements is her marriage to Paul, played superbly by Stanley Tucci. Their deep devotion to each other is played straight and without false drama, which is refreshing and not at all boring. Even while sharing scenes with the marvelous Streep playing the larger-than-life Julia Childs, Tucci shines and their chemistry is sparkling.

It seems likely Streep will get a Best Actress nod here, and it would be well-deserved. I wonder if someone else gives the exact same performance, would even get consideration? On the other hand, who else could give the exact same performance? And Tucci would get a (again, well-deserved) Supporting Actor nomination if he wasn’t probably going to get one for The Lovely Bones instead. And I’d be happy with an Adapted Screenplay nod as well since the story is so infectiously enjoyable.

I caught Julie & Julia on a flight where I was already jet-lagged out of my skull and my previous two nights had been spent on an overnight bus hurtling down a Kenyan highway and on an airplane, so I’m looking forward to seeing it again while in a more normal state of mind. If it charmed me even while I was completely out of it, I’d call that a good sign. And this time I’ll be able to eat more than airline food while watching it.

Advertisements