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Saturday
Aug082009

Julie & Julia

As a film lover, I am sometimes forced to watch movies that hold little interest to me, though I still try to go into every one with no bias, throwing away how I personally feel about the subject matter and judging it on its own merits. Usually I can do that and see the film for what it is. I couldn't do that with Julie & Julia. Watching a pair of women cook for two hours simply isn't my idea of a good time.

Amy Adams plays Julie, an emotionally lost woman who feels like she is at a crossroads. Her friends are tremendously successful, landing multi-million dollar projects and bringing home the big bucks while she sits at a cubicle, frustrated at the lack of focus in her life. To cope, she decides to start a blog, writing about her endeavor to work through Julia Child's famous cook book, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." She sets the time period to one year and as she works through the 524 recipes, her blog gradually gets more and more exposure.

The film flashes back and forth chronicling Julie's life as well as Julia's, played by Meryl Streep, as she also seems to be at a crossroads due to a lack of focus in her life, eventually taking up her love of cooking and detailing the barriers she had to break through to become the person Julie now adores. It tries to create a parallel between the two, but I didn't care about either. I simply couldn't connect with the women because I'm not a cooker. I can't tell a spatula from a ladle. I can barely microwave a hot dog without burning it, and even then I only get it right half the time. Cooking isn't my forte. I don't even find it mildly interesting and, therefore, couldn't immerse myself into the movie.

Though it's really not all that impressive anyway. Despite strong performances from the leads, especially Meryl Streep who perfectly embodies Child, and competent direction from Nora Ephron, the movie lacks any semblance of what one would traditionally call a story. There is no conflict here other than Julie and Julia's internal conflicts, but even that is only the beginning of the movie. Some type of conflict must exist within the length of the story, usually to set up a climax and bring about a resolution. That's Storytelling 101 folks and this movie flubs up the most basic of structures.

Some would argue that the disputes between Julie and her husband allow for conflict in the movie, which is hardly the case. All married couples argue. Late in the movie, a newspaper reporter tells Julie via phone that Julia heard about her blog and didn't like the idea, prompting an emotional breakdown before her husband quickly rectifies the situation, calming her down through his husbandly love. These examples of such insignificant quarrels are nothing but trite attempts at creating the illusion of a story.

I was unable to attend a pre-screening for Julie & Julia and was forced to watch it with its target audience, women 40 and up (and the occasional man unwillingly dragged there by his wife). They all found it positively delightful, but the so called "problems" in the movie are so minor in comparison to actual real world problems that the whole thing just becomes absurd. Big plot turns in most movies consist of a kindling romance, an unexpected death, or something similar that will change the lives of the characters forever. In this, Julie puts dinner in the oven, falls asleep on the couch and burns it. Gasp! It's a silly notion to think that this is what is considered the story.

I appreciate that the film tried to be an innocent, upbeat little picture with zero violence and only a moderate amount of sex and cursing, but lack of vulgarity doesn't excuse its lack of story. It needed a script and it needed one badly. Julie & Julia is two hours long, but it feels double that. This fluff piece of entertainment will work for older audiences, but no one else.

Julie & Julia receives 2/5

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