Julie and Julia (2009) -vs- Julia (1977)

August 21, 2009 Sherry Coben

Nora Ephron cooks up more than Beef Bourguignon in this deceptively slight comic biography; there’s more food for thought than I ever expected. I knew that the magnificent Streep would deliver another masterful tour de force, and that she certainly did. Her performance percolates and bubbles, her laugh wells up like water from a spring, an indomitable and slightly ungainly life force inviting us in to share her electrified air. Her Julia Child is vocally impeccable, but her eloquently wordless moments tell us more than any others. A moment shared with Tucci after her sister’s letter arrives stands alone, saying everything about the Childs’ childlessness with no dialogue needed. Streep inhabits this giant among women (and men), her quick mind and undauntable spirit burning brilliant with deeply felt life. Streep’s performance lights up the screen and nestles somewhere in the chair beside you, making you realize how much you love food and Julia Child and being alive. There simply aren’t enough glowing adjectives in my usually adequate vocabulary to praise this national treasure. She and Stanley Tucci portray an unusually loving marriage that inspires and amuses, capturing something true and real, a human connection well beyond biopic’s usual parameters. And the food is beautiful; it’s food porn, not quite “Big Night” caliber but up there with the rest of the genre. And, yes, the Julie sections of the film are nowhere near so compelling as the Julia story for reasons so obvious as to be almost unworthy of listing, but list them I shall for they’ll serve my greater purpose later on in this little rant.
[…]