What I got was half of a brilliant movie. The other half was fun– more fun than I expected — but not nearly as brilliant.
The half that I adored was the Julia Child half. Based on My Life in France, it took the best parts of the book — the beginning, when she was discovering France and French cooking — and played them for all that they were worth. Meryl Streep did a fantastic job channeling Julia, but it was more than that. Stanley Tucci was absolutely perfect as Paul Child, and you could feel the affection between the two of them as a couple. I was a tad bit disappointed that they didn’t do more of my favorite bits from the book — I liked her classes at Le Cordon Bleu, and her experiences with the Gourmandes — but what they did do was absolutely perfect. They got the Valentine’s cards in; they captured Julia’s determination and scientific approach.
And if the movie had just been about Julia Child, I would have loved it.
But, they needed — maybe because too much Julia Child would have been too much? — to juxtapose that with something more modern, and who better than Julie Powell? It’s not that I didn’t like Julie and Julia; I did well enough. And there were moments of her story that I did like, too (specifically the lobster). But, she came off as real needy in the movie; an attention-seeker, where everything was building up to a particular moment: the moment when the World noticed that she was a Writer. Sure, Julia Child was an inspiration, and a project, but she was also a stepping stone to something Bigger. Something Julie.
I’m not sure if that’s what she meant to portray when she wrote the book, but that’s really how it came off in the movie. And that soured the joy that was the Julia Child sections.
Verdict: see the movie! Read My Life in France, too. The other book’s optional.