Julie and Julia (2009)
RB score: 9/10.
A superb vehicle highlighting the accomplishments of 3 women: Julia Child, Julie Powell and Nora Ephron. Sadly, we’ve lost both Ephron and Child, but this movie functions as a fittingly emotional tribute to both – without ever being manipulative. Well constructed and well acted by its powerhouse cast, seeming to underscore the delicious reality that true talent and heartfelt gifts don’t ever need to resort to gimmicks… and based on true events that started with a blog and became a published work. There’s a reason the critics went wild over the performances in this movie. Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci convey characters who have died but are totally alive, neatly capturing the paradox that people dream of – the chance for our passions to transcend our lives on earth. It’s exceptionally well done in this movie. And it is really Streep’s show as Julia Child.
Amy Adams plays Julie Powell, a stressed call-center employee who adds dimension to her life with a blog she started and which becomes an all-consuming hobby. To her readers she pledges to cook all the recipes in Julia Child’s bestseller, The Art of French Cooking. She lives with her husband and their cat in a small New York apartment above a pizza place.
As the movie unfolds, we get delicious detail as to how the real Julia Child, sweet, earthy, loving and real, achieves her life goals while living life on her terms, (really: who does that? You go woman!) while Julie, buoyed by the connection of their first names, is inspired to embark on her own life quest. Julia Child, of course, was essentially a happy housewife who eventually became very successful with the publication of her renowned cookbook and which led to her legendary TV series, but the movie is about the life that was lived before any of that materialized. Both women enjoyed relationships with some variation of the perfect supportive man for a partner, which if nothing else can serve as a reminder that this can in fact exist in real life.
“Julie and Julia” is a visual and verbal feast that inspires a lot of adverbs and adjectives, reminding me of an English prof who used to strike them from my writing. Dear Professor: Sometimes the best moments in life, and the most intense feelings, can only be captured in bad writing. Whatever words best capture such moments, are for that purpose, the best writing.
I’ve seen this movie twice now and will look forward to the third and subsequent viewings because there is just too much artistry, too much life to absorb the first couple of times.
9/10 only because the Julie Powell character came off as needlessly shrill at times and they could have avoided that. Hence the one point deduction. In Julie and Julia, women were allowed to enjoy food and sex, thanks to what Ephron gave us on the big screen. In 2014, we’re back to Madonna/Whore for the second of our two Chick Flick reviews….
The Other Woman (2014)
RB score: 7/10 and only because whatever its shortcomings, the movie is not boring. Otherwise we would be into much lower numbers.
“The Other Woman” walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, but as far as typical chick flick fare it’s a mixed bag. I’m a sap for the genre and still found myself in kind of an “OH PLEASE” state of mind at various points in the movie. Scantily clad women running along the beach and wrestling… brings up a question about why movies marketed to women contain so much cheesecake. All of Kate Upton’s relevant parts are bouncing freely up and down as she jogs down the beach. None of those parts do anything for me.
As for the well-paced and busy plot, it contains nothing original as our protagonist, played by Cameron Diaz, discovers that her boyfriend is not only married, he’s got more than one mistress. The wife, (Leslie Mann) mistress (Kate Upton) and protagonist form an odd bond to get revenge and since this is also a thin plot, there is much dependence on cinematography and talent for physical comedy among the leads, especially Diaz who expertly carries the entire production. Leslie Mann vies with Diaz for being queen on physical comedy, Kate Upton is the cheesecake queen but Diaz is the one who combines all the elements as she does for pretty much any movie she appears in which probably has a lot to do with why she remains an A list star.
There’s some good supporting performances including Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as the swine of a husband, Taylor Kinney as the wife’s brother who clicks with Diaz, and Don Johnson as Diaz’s father who seems to have found himself a new acting niche as the eccentric and geriatric, yet still youthful and hip Dad. Mostly however this movie relies on lots and lots of cheesecake, which I assume is contrived to sell tickets to husbands and boyfriends who might be induced to see this movie. Nicki Minaj provides additional character as Diaz’ office assistant in her acting debut.
It’s possible the numerical score here is overly generous but as noted, at least the movie is not boring. The revenge motif is fun, and RB always gives bonus points for endings that tie everything together, even though this has nothing to do with reality. That’s precisely why I love endings like this. But I can’t kid myself into believing this is a great movie. While it’s not a waste of $1.20 at Redbox, I can’t imagine paying theatre prices for a Thighmaster ad.