Julie & Julia: Then Beat In a Rack of Skewered Republican...

Movie:Julie & Julia
Company:Columbia Pictures
Director:Nora Ephron
Starring:Meryl Streep
Amy Adams
Stanley Tucci
Chris Messina

        I like to cook. No, I really like to cook. The more complex the recipe, the more I want to try it, and I don't usually take shortcuts. If a recipe calls for chicken stock, then I make the chicken stock. I have a sourdough culture, which I started from scratch, in my refrigerator. I'm starting an herb garden in the basement. I attempt a vegetable garden in the backyard each year. I think you get the idea.

        My wife occasionally drops the hint, “It's been a while since you made Coq au Vin”, which is true. This week her overall “I want some Coq au Vin, damn it” strategy took an inspired turn when she rented “Julie & Julia”. The movie tells two highly edited stories which it attempts to intertwine; one of Julia Child's path from expatriate housewife to international authority on French cuisine, the other of Julie Powell's year-long attempt to make her way through Child's famous “Mastering The Art of French Cooking” while blogging the results.

        Meryl Streep's performance of Julia Child is easily the highlight of the movie. I remember seeing Julia Child on television when I was young and thinking that there was something odd in her mannerisms. Streep's authentic performance hits home to a new generation how Child's awkwardness was also endearing and how that very awkwardness put her own generation at ease that a subject as intimidating as French cuisine was, in fact, accessible to each and every awkward one of us. Heck, I'm even hoping to get Child's book for Christmas now.

        The intertwined story of Julie Powell, however, came off as indulgent and contrived. As an example, while Julia Child breaks down crying because she and her husband are not able to conceive a child, Julie Powell breaks down because she dropped a stuffed chicken on the floor. Threads started in this second story are forgotten and never followed up. Some examples are when Julie Powell's friends try to convince her that she should add “Pay Pal” to her site for contributions yet the viewer is never shown what becomes of this suggestion, or when, in the middle of her year, her site is ranked by Salon.com as “Third most read” and then no other ranking is ever again mentioned.

        However, the real problem with this movie is that, as usual, Hollywood whipped out it's wizened, chastising Marxist finger to wag in our faces because it thinks we're all evil and need to be punished. The word “Republican” was used so often and in the manner which one would spit, “Degenerate!”, that Julia Child's famous, “Bon Apetite!”, might have easily been replaced with, “Republicans Suck!”. Julia's father is portrayed as a stereotypical angry Republican who vocally disapproves of his daughters' marriages to lefty bohemian types. The McCarthy commission, in an act portrayed as pure political thuggery, investigates Julia's left leaning husband who worked for the OSS and the US Consulate in France and China and who just happened to like to joke that he was a spy. The inconvenient fact that Julia's pen-pal and agent, Avis DeVoto, was married to a man investigated for Communist ties by the Truman administration (way before the McCarthy era) was conveniently omitted. Even Julie Powell's day job boss shows magnanimous understanding of her taking a day off to cook by commenting, “A Republican would have fired you”. All in all, this movie's serving of Ham-fist with half-baked Rhetoric and a side of Bile is a bit too bitter for my tastes.

        Unfortunately, Streep's amazing performance doesn't overpower and save the rest of the movie. Try as you might to hold your nose, “Julie & Julia” is better left dropped on the floor.

Hollywood, STFU Rating: 2.5 Hammer and Sickles