In the past couple of years, I have seen Meryl Streep and Amy Adams in two movies together. The first was "Doubt" in which Meryl plays Sister Aloysius, the principal of a Catholic school in the Bronx. Amy Adams plays Sister James, a young, naive teacher at the school, and she finds herself butting heads with the hard-boiled Sister Aloysius. Both of their performances are seamless, and there is a wonderful chemistry between the two actresses.
This week I finally got around to seeing "Julie and Julia". I'm sure all of you have seen it, but in case you have been living on the dark side of the moon, it is the story of Julie Powell, a blogger who decided to cook all 524 of Julia Child's recipes in her cookbook "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". She gave herself a deadline of 365 days to finish the project, and she blogged about it as she went along. The blog was later made into a book and then into the movie "Julie and Julia".
Meryl Streep is the reigning queen of cinema, and long may she reign, but in this particular movie I felt her performance was a bit synthetic, almost like a museum piece. Meryl called on her usual tics and quirky mannerisms, and combined with Julia Child’s tics and quirky mannerisms, it became a bit distracting. She had Julia Child's voice and awkward characteristics down pat. I found myself watching her segment of the movie thinking, “Oh, what a good job Meryl Streep is doing mimicking Julia Child”, instead of being engrossed in the movie. It’s always a bad sign when you’re aware of someone’s acting. To me, it felt more like a caricature, such as we might see on "Saturday Night Live". But I think I am probably the only person in the entire known universe who has this opinion of Meryl Streep's performance in this role.
Amy Adams as Julia Powell, on the other hand, was more engaging. She was warm, real, and relaxed. Amy Adams has a lovely way of speaking, quite meticulous, and her performance was seamless. She was entirely believable as a young woman from Queens who has bitten off more than she can chew -- so to speak. The day-to-day successes and failures of her ambitious project put her into highs and lows with which we can all relate. Her total physical, emotional and psychological collapse when she burnt the boeuf bourguignon she was preparing for an important dinner, was funny and sad and somehow poignant, and my heart went out to her. At the end of the movie, Julie receives the devastating news that Julia Child has heard of her and does not approve of her. Julia called her "disrespectful". I have read Julie's blog, and she drops the "F" bomb -- a lot. I can understand why Julia Child would not approve of that, and I wondered why it is even necessary to do it. She continues to do it to this day on her blog, and all I can think is, "Why? It's a cooking blog, for crying out loud. Is the "F" word really necessary?"
Meryl has been nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance as Julia Child, and she will probably be nominated for an Oscar too. I love Meryl Streep and she is always wonderful, and I think it's really difficult to take on the role of someone who is already an icon. The movie is a lot of fun and I enjoyed every minute of it. Don't watch it while you're hungry. You'll come away craving cheese soufflé and chocolate mousse -- and lots and lots of butter.