As far as Oscar talk goes this season, none is more rabid than the chatter surrounding Meryl Streep. She’s been a frequent presence in Oscar nominated films for awhile now, but with her role as Julia Child in Julie & Julia will no doubt secure her an additional nomination. It was her role that kept the film alive and exciting to watch and it was her performance that no doubt kept the film afloat in theaters for as long as it was. Although it brought in a modest sum, $118 million worldwide, the $40 million budgeted film will no doubt go on to be a high point in Streep’s career.
A culinary legend provides a frustrated office worker with a new recipe for life in Julie & Julia, the true stories of how Julia Child’s (Meryl Streep) life and cookbook inspired fledgling writer Julie Powell (Amy Adams) to whip up 524 recipes in 365 days and introduce a new generation to the magic of French cooking. Stanley Tucci (The Devil Wears Prada) co-stars in director Nora Ephron’s delicious comedy about joy, obsession and butter. Bon appétit!
Strictly speaking this isn’t the exact type of film a guy who enjoys watching sonic constructions like Terminator Salvation, but even I have to admit that there is something incredibly appealing about Julie & Julia. The performances are just so magnificent from all those involved (although you’ll likely find yourself enamored with Streep and Tucci’s side of the story a bit more) that it’s a hard film to deny, even if it does get a bit long in the tooth towards the end. But that’s a minor quibble, as there’s so much to laugh and smile about while watching this film that the length is but a small thing to fault in this overwhelming entertaining film.
What helps the film is the constant throwing back and forth between Julia Child and writer Julie Powell’s lives. While a film focusing on one or the other would either be too much or too little in some cases, the trading off between the two really helps this film work in everyone’s favor. I’m sure Streep could’ve carried the entire film herself, no doubt, but I think the longevity of the film would’ve been hindered if we didn’t have the sometimes monotonous plot broken up as it was. Granted, as I just mentioned, the film does drag on a bit towards the end, but overall the dual stories were something that worked much more in the film’s favor than against it.
While I never made a purpose of watching Julia Child, she was something that my mom would watch on weekend mornings. Whether they were new or repeats, I honestly don’t know (I’m leaning towards repeats), but Julia Child was definitely a “character” that I knew of. And from what little of her that I remember, it seems that Streep has positively nailed her in this film. I can’t tell if her performance is a bit more hyper realized than what Child was actually like in real life, but I get the feeling that enough research was put into this role that what we get is as close to genuine as is humanly possible. I look forward to the Oscar nominations, as I’ve no doubt that she’ll get a nod.
Now when talking about this film it’s often Streep that you only hear about. And for good reason—she is very much the star of the film. The other star, Amy Adams, is entertaining and deftly holds up her end of the film, but whenever her character occupies the screen for more than ten or fifteen minutes, you can’t help but want it to flip back to Streep. Adams plays the role as best as she can and while it’s not always a drag, it’s her side that tends to wear on the most. While there is heartache and hardships on both sides of the story, it’s her portion that seems to be the most “mopey.” Or maybe it’s just the unfulfilling resolution to her story (she never actually meets Julia Child, and the only word that she gets from her in regards to her blog is one of disappointment) that makes the story a bit of a down. Granted they could’ve Hollywood-ized it and actually given it an ending, but in a way I guess it’s that disappointing bit of the film that is one of the most real things about it.
The rest of the cast is also quite fantastic and the directing, done by Nora Ephron of Sleepless in Seatle and You’ve Got Mail fame, is also top notch. The film does have a few low points, but overall you’ll be so enamored with the performances from everyone involved that the low points are greatly overshadowed by the high ones. Recommended.
Sony brings Julie & Julia to Blu-ray in a fine package. The disc itself is housed in a standard Elite Blu-ray case without any frills on the outside (as in no slipcover). Disc art is simple and the menu system for the film is straightforward and uncomplicated to navigate through.
The video, an AVC encoded 1080p affair, is really just flawless. From the details of France to the small apartment in New York, nothing in this transfer looks ugly in any way. Ok, the SNL clip looks dated, but other than that the detail is simply impeccable on this transfer. You can almost smell the food being cooked as it looks so lifelike and detailed on the screen and just everything about this admittedly simple production looks fantastic. It’s a modern film so the depth and detail shouldn’t be all that surprising, but when a 1.85:1 film like this comes along to fill up the entirety of your 16×9 TV set then it’s all the easier to bask in it’s warm colors and pristine picture.
Audio…well, that’s a bit different. We get a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track and as one would expect from a culinary comedy…there isn’t a whole lot here to boast about. There is some decent surround chatter in outdoor or crowd sequences, but overall what you get from this audio mix is crystal clear dialogue out of the front channels. Subwoofer activity is mostly null and void, but, again, this isn’t really the film to demand attention from your speakers. Rather it’s one where you shouldn’t notice an aggressive mix and that is exactly what this film gives us—nothing to distract or detract from the main story. Overall a solid audio mix to accompany the gorgeous 1080p video transfer.
Extras are more plentiful on Blu-ray than the DVD release, as we get some exclusives. Nothing major, but exclusive nonetheless. The full list includes:
• Commentary with Writer/Director Nora Ephron
• Secret Ingredients: Creating Julie & Julia (27:44, 1080p)
• Family & Friends Remember Julia Child (47:39, 1080p)
• Julia’s Kitchen (22:30, 1080p)
• Poaching Eggs with Julia Child & Jacques Pépin (4:14, 1080i)
• Making Hollandaise Sauce with Julia Child & Jacques Pépin (2:38, 1080i)
• Mark Peel prepares Scrambled Eggs (4:51, 1080i)
• Suzanne Goin prepares Braised Beef Short Ribs (5:44, 1080i)
• Steven Lewandowski & Drew Nieporent Prepare Butter Poached Maine Lobster (5:26, 1080i)
Honestly I was quite surprised by the Blu-ray only exclusives on this one. The “Family & Friends” piece was especially nice, as was the tour of Julia’s Kitchen at the Smithsonian. The cooking bits were solid as well and it was nice to actually get some actual cooking lessons with the real Julia Child (anything in the film that was shown on TV or in print was re-done with Streep’s visage).
Overall it’s a solid package from start to finish and for anyone who enjoyed the film this will be a Highly Recommended release. Just absolutely fantastic visuals and the inclusion of a director commentary is a very welcome touch as well. So many films and studios seem to skip over those, but it’s nice to see Sony and Ephron on board for this film.
Julie & Julia arrives on Blu-ray and DVD on December 8th.