From the Editor

Movie Review Archive

Thank you for checking out my movie review archive. I'm in the process of transitioning to something else, so I will no longer post new reviews to this blog. In the meantime, I will keep these reviews archived; these are from the fall of 2008 to April 2011. Please watch this blog for more info and keep in touch (you can still find me on Facebook and Twitter). Here's to more great movies!

Wes Singleton

North Texas Film Critics Association

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Julie & Julia - A-

Rated PG-13 for brief strong language and some sensuality, 120 minutes

Bon appetit! You'll enjoy the lovely, delectable "Julie & Julia"
Adams shines but Streep perfectly captures Child

About halfway during the new film "Julie & Julia" something hilarious happens. Two of the characters watch Dan Ackroyd on TV do his "Saturday Night Live" wickedly funny, blood splattering take on Child (catch it on You Tube if you haven't seen it). As funny as Ackroyd is, he's no match for Meryl Streep's astonishing performance as Child, perfectly capturing her bubbly charm and personality. Enjoyable, engaging and touching, "Julie & Julia" tells not one but two remarkable true stories of women and their cookbooks.

Julie Powell (Amy Adams) moves to Queens, New York in 2002 with husband Eric (Chris Messina) and works for a government agency. Frustrated with a job she dislikes and unable to fulfill her dreams of being a writer, she finds joy in cooking. Combining two things she truly enjoys - cooking and writing - she decides to take on cooking all 524 recipes in Julia Child's classic best-selling cookbook "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" in one year, blogging about each recipe and becoming an overnight celebrity in the process.

It’s 1949 and Julia Child (Meryl Streep) has just moved to France with husband Paul (Stanley Tucci), who works for the U.S. Embassy. Trying to find a place to fit in, she tries new hobbies such as bridge or hat making, but finds she truly enjoys cooking and enrolls in a local cooking school where she rises to the top of her class. She befriends a couple of French ladies with an equal interest in cooking attempting to write an English version of a French cookbook. Julia lends her hand and spends years toiling over the book before it's finally published as "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," becoming one of the most influential cookbooks ever. Separated by time and space, both Julie and Julia discovered how their affection for cooking has permanently shaped their lives.

"Julie & Julia" is a delightful chick flick that shouldn’t be missed for its superb, engaging performances and a true story with flavorful emotional resonance. Written and directed by "You've Got Mail's" Nora Ephron, the story attempts too much but still moves along at a cheery, colorful pace. Unlike their previous screen outing with “Doubt,” Streep and Adams share no screen time in "Julie & Julia" given the separate storylines (and based on two books - Child's memoir and Powell's 2005 book) but their performances are the highlight. Adams’ smart, perceptive performance grounds the film well, with evidence that she’s quickly maturing to A-list actress.

Unsurprisingly, "Julie & Julia" belongs to veteran Streep in another remarkable, vivid performance that’s certainly Oscar-worthy. She flawlessly nails the essence of the iconic cook in mannerisms, enthusiasm and bubbly, high tinged voice. It's a sublimely studied, joyous performance that ranks as one of Streep's best, along with "Sophie's Choice" and “Devil Wears Prada.” Most importantly, it shades Child as an honorable, sympathetic (and quite funny) woman who had a true love for her husband and for food. Though it focuses in painstaking detail of her quest to get her cookbook published, “Julie & Julia” gives insight into Child before she became a well-known, beloved TV fixture who made it possible for cooking celebrities like Emeril, Paula Deen and Rachael Ray to do their thing today.

Some sturdy supporting players lend ample help, including the likable Messina and the always pleasant Tucci (one of Streep’s assistants in “Prada”) as Powell and Child's long-suffering husbands, respectively. Watch for a very brief but hilarious turn from nimble comic actress Jane Lynch -seen to good effect in last year's "Role Models"- as Child's equally cheerful, gangly sister.

Ephron’s “Julie & Julia” direction and script is capable but reflects an ambitious undertaking, attempting to pack too many details in (each story really deserves its own movie) not to mention it heavily idealizes the similarities with Powell and Child’s stories. Even with that, Ephron balances time and space equally well though most will agree that Child’s story is vastly more engaging than Powell’s.

“Julie & Julia” serves up a delectable, appetizing late summer dish that will satisfy viewers now and likely to be remembered at Oscar time.