Monday, August 16, 2010

Just Because Review: Julie & Julia (2009)

Last year's acting-award-bait Julie & Julia is another page in Nora Ephron's never-ending proverbial book on how to make blah films look passable. It is so annoyingly bland, yet so mysteriously satisfying that I am not even sure whether I actually liked it or loathed it. I just blah-ed it, I guess.

Julie (Amy Adams) is working at a job that potentially could scar her for life (at the switchboard of a quango in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks). She is at a loss as to what her life is heading now that she and her husband moved to a dingy flat above a pizzeria in Queens - could she ever be a real writer as she used to dream to be? Will she ever finish something that she started? With her love for cooking and a little push from her loving husband (Chris Messina), she decides to cook every single recipe in Julia Child's cookbook in 365 days. And blog about her experience. While cooking the butter-soaked French recipes, we also get a glimpse of Julia Child's life (Meryl Streep in a border-line genius / annoying turn) as a budding cook / writer.

This is boring me as I'm writing it, but it cannot get more formulaic, derivative, and bland as this - nothing is wrong with it, it's just so unimpressive both as an artistic endeavour and as an entertainment piece that it is almost insulting. No joke is really that funny, no line is really that ingenious or memorable, no drama is really that heartbreaking and/or emotionally satisfying. It occupies a safe space between blah and meh ...

Amy Adams does ever so well in a cute-as-a-button turn as Julie, but she never really channels that character as well as she could. Chris Messina and Stanley Tucci (playing Julia Child's husband) are too "normal" - there is nothing risky about their characters, just like the story they belong to. Without taking risks, this ends up being very, very boring.

Yet, it is well-filmed, generally decent-acted and somewhat warm and fuzzy (albeit very superficially). Nora Ephron is not really capable of anything better than this, but the rest of the talent sure are. I just wish it was just called Julia and be done with it. Because a blogging, whiny girl don't make a credible dramatic or inspiring character.

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