Julie & Julia Review Wrapup [metacriticsm]


Well, the reviews are in: The general consensus, as expected: Meryl Streep is great, the Julia Child half is great, the Julie Powell half: not so much. Overall, it's not tracking well: As of this writing, it has a 64% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a score of 60 on Metacritic. On with the show:

Food Media & Blogs

Laura Shapiro for Gourmet:

The idea of Powell as a contemporary heir to this personal and culinary epic is absurd. Nothing in her relation to the kitchen offers the slightest hint that she has learned anything at all from her heroine... Bring a book and a penlight for the Powell half of this movie. But the Julia half? Vaut le voyage, and I can’t wait to go back a third time.

Josh Friedland, The Food Section:

Like many others have already asserted, the Julia Child portion of the film ends up the stronger part of the story and shows her life may even deserve its own exclusive biopic. And, the stronger her half gets, the more the Julie Powell half suffers from the comparison.

James Oliver Cury for Epicurious:

Gorgeous shots of Paris in the '50s and modern-day New York... Core message of persistence, vision, inner strength... The honest representation of book publishing... Sex scenes... Omitted truths... Abrupt ending...

Regular (Old) Media

A.O. Scott for The New York Times:

Ms. Adams is a lovely and subtle performer, but she is overmatched by her co-star and handicapped by the material... The deck is further stacked against Ms. Adams by the discrepancy between Ms. Powell’s achievement and Ms. Child’s, and by a corresponding imbalance in Ms. Ephron’s interest in the characters. The conceit of parallel lives is undone by the movie’s condescending treatment of Julie and also by its ardent embrace of the past at the expense of the present... The unevenness of “Julie and Julia” is nobody’s fault, really. It arises from an inherent flaw in the film’s premise

Lou Lumenick for the New York Post:

A sometimes food writer whose films as a director have tended to glibness and worse, Ephron discovers a heretofore missing passion that also illuminates the lovely romantic scenes between Julia and her husband, Paul... It's hard to believe the same director handled the desultory Julie scenes... It's a slog, complete with the expected sit-comish cooking disasters and a visit from an adoring New York Times food writer (playing herself).

Mick LaSalle for the SF Gate:

In fact, if "Julie & Julia" focused entirely on the "Julia" part, it would be, without question, one of the best movies of the year. But there's another side to the movie, the Julie Powell side... it goes about justifying the juxtaposition of the two women by finding shallow parallels between them.

Roger Ebert for The Chicago Sun-Times:

A fair number of no-doubt delicious recipes are prepared and served, but there is never a moment when our mouths water as they did over the Japanese noodle soup in "Tampopo."... “Julie & Julia” is not lacking in entertainment value, especially with the Streep performance. But if the men had been portrayed as more high-spirited, it might have taken on intriguing dimensions. Both husbands are, frankly, a little boring

Justin Chang for Variety:

This middling melange of Child biopic and contempo dramedy feels overstuffed and predigested as it depicts two ladies who found fame and fulfillment in their respective eras by cooking and writing about it... by conflating the characters so neatly, "Julie & Julia" becomes the slick, presumptuous vanity project that Powell's book was not... it's hard to imagine that Julia Child herself, an unapologetic Francophile with one hell of an appetite, would have been much of a fan.

Kirk Honeycutt for The Hollywood Reporter:

Powell's story about her single-minded engagement with Child's cookbook has an almost unpleasant taste of self-absorption. And by sharing her story with Child's, Ephron throws the wrong emphasis on Child's delightful memoir.

Armond White for NY Press:

[Streep's] tall, well-dressed Julia is basically comic mimicry, emphasizing middle-aged elegance and emulating the famous piping voice and hulking stance... This crafty performance stays as superficial as Dan Ackroyd’s Julia Child spoof on Saturday Night Live... Ephron conveys neither gustatory joy nor cinematic know-how.

Robert Wilonsky for The Village Voice:

Julie & Julia adapted from Julie Powell's blog-turned-memoir... is an absolutely delightful read... Yet all Ephron saw in that tale was just another dreary romantic comedy. The book, originally shopped as a stand-alone project, could have made for a scrappy, scrumptious indie—all the outer-borough funk and main-course "fucks" of the book left intact, Bridget Jones doused in Béarnaise sauce and vodka gimlets. But Ephron has excised the heart (and gizzard and liver and so on) from Powell's tale.

David Edelstein for New York Magazine:

[W]hen Ephron cuts between Paris in the fifties and Queens in 2002 to show Julia and Julie as they both achieve autonomy through cooking, The Godfather Part II this ain’t—the connection is strained... But Streep kicks it up about a million notches, and Ephron is an enthusiastic cook, so the film has some foodie texture... Ephron should make a film about the person she herself is (smart, acid) instead of the cutie-pixie of her dumb fantasies.

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  1. I hated the book; hated the whiny, self-absorbed person who wrote it; the obviously embellished family members who were too larger-than-life to be believed; the unnecessary sexual references (did not need to know about how she felt between her legs when she was a kid); and I call serious bullshit on how she was able to afford cooking her way through Child's book. I would love to see the Streep half of the film because, ner, it's Meryl Streep. The rest would most like rattle me a wee bit.

  2. In the movie, the richness of Julia Child's life experience, relationships, and accomplishments (especially in Paris) contrasts sharply with the poverty of Julie Powell's life, friendships, and ambitions in Queens, with the Julie part of the movie the loser in the comparison.

    It's sort of like holding up a painting by a modern artist who never learned to draw against a masterpiece from an old master.

    I watched all the PBS shows of the French Chef. At that time, the French were correct in saying that Julia Child was not a real working chef. As Child admitted, she was a home cook and taught home cooking. She inspired me partly by her ineptness, actually. When I saw the lumpy buche de noel (Yule log cake) with the misshapen mushrooms she created in one show, I thought to myself, Hey! Even I can do that!

    I started watching her show in Massachusetts, continued when we moved to San Francisco and then when we lived in the prairie in Northern Minnesota. I still remember one midday when I carried a big pot of garlic soup from The French Chef cookbook to a Freaky Foods Club meeting in San Francisco.

    I loved Julia Child, and the movie reminded me of that great affection. She was a bright original spirit, her cook books are very good, and her shows were entertaining and belied the impressive amount of work that she and her husband and many assistants did to prepare behind the scenes.

    I ran across the Julie/Julia project blog before it was famous, and I just finished taking another look at the blogger's final posts. I now have to say I can't abide its angry, mean, fairly superficial and not to mention expletive ridden and blasphemous writing. (When she hinted there would be an addition to the family [which turned out to be a dog], she wrote, "No, not a baby. J****s!) What does that say about her in contrast to Julia Child's tears and great sadness in the movie about the children she wanted but could not have?

    I have to agree with Julia Chld's reaction to the blog: she said it was a stunt and that the writer was shallow and wasn't a serious cook.

    One thing that is patently absurd is that in the movie Powell set herself a year's deadline and then wailed that if she missed it she would have wasted a year. Huh? There was nothing to lose if she missed the deadline, nothing at all. It was inspiring to me that she got a book contract and a movie out of her blog, but was what she wrote actually worth all the hype? And her reported conversations with her imaginary friend Julie Child while she cooked seemed pretty absurd too.

    Talk about being blasphemous, I sometimes wonder if all the gourmandizing that Julia Child unleashed was actually good for American culture. You cannot make a salad without spring mix lettuces (with the mandatory arugila) in the circles I run in. My work cafeteria has all kinds of what I call yuppy food, when I'd like to sometimes go in at lunchtime and pick up a regular old low priced sandwich, with maybe romaine or curly leaf lettuce. Cooks these days don't seem to realize that good food can be made and enjoyed without expensive ingredients like Extra Virgin Olive Oil varieties and Balsamic Vinegar.

    Excessive preoccupation with food, even excellent well-prepared food, is just as bad as any addiction. What have we come to with a TV channel totally dedicated to Foodie-ism? I have to admit I'm delighted that American cooking is no longer only packaged mixess, Wonder Bread, and convenience foods of all kinds. But there has to be a middle ground!

  3. I saw the movie yesterday and thought it was delightful. I loved every bit of it. It seems like every time the critics come out with a bad review the movie is realy good, and the public always likes it. I only went to the movie because so many of my friends saw it and said how good and fun it was. If I had read the reviews first I would have gone sooner. This one gets two thumbs up from me.

  4. Annie

    I saw the delicious movie last night with my daughter and a friend. So many of the Paris sites appeared just as they must have 50 years ago. Meryl Streep was Julia perfectly realized and Jane Lynch was amazing as her sister. Kudos to the costume designer. The clothes brought back my mother and her friends absolutely to a T. Fabulous.

    "My Life in France" is a delightful book and anyone who enjoyed the movie should read it. The movie does a great job of adapting it, but there is so much more to enjoy.

    But steer clear of the book "Julie and Julie". It's awful. But don't take my word for it. Check out the reviews at Amazon where the largest group of comments is in the one-star category.

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