Monday, May 10, 2010

Light "Julie & Julia" offers another delicious Streep performance

Julie & Julia (2009)
110 min., rated PG-13.
Grade: B -

Acting goddess Meryl Streep does the incredible: she is the lovable Julia Child, whipping up a treat of a charismatic and non-buttery performance like she did in "The Devil Wears Prada" without segueing into SNL impersonation or larger-than-life caricature. The biopic story of Julia, a former government secretary and joyous cook who lived in France, is episodically juxtaposed with blogger Julie Powell's parallel story, played by the sunshiny Amy Adams. Frustrated with her job at Ground Zero and self-absorbed friends, Julie decides to make all 524 of Julia Child's recipes and then blogging about them. 

Writer-director Nora Ephron's overlong but delightful and fairly entertaining concoction, "Julie & Julia," is like a not-very-filling soufflĂ©. Even though based on the autobiographical novel, Julie's storyline is no match for Julia that one wouldn't have minded had Ephron just made “The Julia Child Biopic.” Adams can redeem any movie she's in and is such an engaging actress that she gives Julie some warmth, but her character is irritating (a self-confessed bitch) always having meltdowns and often makes the film stagnant. But it's Streep who energizes the film as a giggly Lucille Ball, uncannily portraying Child's mannerisms, distinctive voice, and 6'2” height, that it's always irresistible fun whenever she's on screen. The supporting cast is fine too, with Jane Lynch funny as Julia's taller, louder sister Dorothy and Stanley Tucci charming as Julia's husband. The movie offers more smiles than laughs, but the elegantly presented meals will look yummy to foodies. 

Even if Ephron never settles for both women meeting, the conclusion at Julia Child's Kitchen at the Smithsonian set to Margaret Whiting's charming “Time After Time” tune doesn't quite have that satisfying payoff where you want to say “bon appetit!” Sometimes a pleasant, easy-breezy trifle is enough, and as such, "Julie & Julia" has most of the right ingredients.

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