As French fades in importance as an international language, my knowledge of that Romanic language serves me less well than it might have when I first started studying it. To be sure, I can still read French literature in the original. And haven’t had to rely on translations of some of the scholarship relevant to my dissertation. But, last night, it came in handy when I watched Nora Ephron‘s Julie & Julia, her new flick starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams–and not to understand any of the dialogue or read any of the signs.
Knowing the language, however, I could better appreciate how wonderfully atrocious was Julia Child’s (Streep) French. Every time she tried to speech the one-time langauge of literature, art and love, I laughed perhaps louder than anyone else in the auditorium. Streep was clearly having a ball showing that despite Child’s mastery of French cuisine, she could never really master the French language.
Streep’s performance was the best thing about a largely haphazard movie. The blending between the two stories, that of Child learning to cook and becoming the celebrated chef and of Julie Powell’s (Adams) gaining her fame in blogging about her experiences cooking 524 of Child’s recipes in 365 days did not really flow. Indeed, the movie (like most contemporary comedies) seemed a series of vignettes grouped around a common theme.
Amy Adams made the best of a a clunkily written part with scenes set in 2002-03 New York that don’t seem to represent exchanges that could occur between actual human beings, saved those living in the imaginary realm of feminist writers. None of the men had lives or personalities outside of their relationship to the leading women. We didn’t even know that Powell’s husband Eric (Chris Messina) had a job until he walked out on her (for reasons that just didn’t seem believable.) In short, the tension between Julie and Eric seemed contrived. And their reconciliation fake.
Stanley Tucci‘s Paul Child seems similarly devoid of personal life or human passions. And since it was his being posted to American embassy in Paris (he was some kind of diplomat) that led Child to discover the art of French cooking, you’d think they might have explored that a little more.
And then there was a gratuitous slap against Republicans, apparently de rigeur in Hollywood movies. (And no, this wasn’t the McCarthy stuff.) Such barbs against Republicans for the sake of having a barb against Republicans shows what we conservatives are up against in contemporary culture. It’s just seen as retrograde to be a Republican.
Now that I’ve harped on the movie’s flaws–and there were many–let me say that despite its disjointed, haphazard nature, it was well worth the cost of the ticket, if primarily for Streep’s performance. She is absolutely delicious as Julia Child. Clearly, she had fun with the part. And she’s really quite funny. I expect her to receive another Oscar nomination.
Now, perhaps, I’m being a little harsh on the movie. It was afterall, an über-chick flick. The audience seemed overwhelmingly female, with the only straight men there accompanied by wives of girlfriends, men clearly expecting something in return for treating their significant others to this feminine indulgence.
UPDATE: Over at Anti-Republican Culture, Howard Towt details the anti-Republican scenes, offering, “But they are there, and they are purposeful.” Read the whole thing.