Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Video review: "Julie & Julia"
It's strange to me that many of my acquaintances have felt rather lackluster about "Julie & Julia," which I consider my favorite film of 2009 (thus far).
Among those whose ardor does not match my own, the feeling is virtually universal: They loved the period section with Meryl Streep portraying Julia Child during her life in France while she was writing her masterpiece, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." But they found the modern section with Amy Adams as a New York worker drone who resolves to cook her way through Child's entire book rather drab.
I can't account for the difference in taste. To me, writer/director Nora Ephron's marriage of the stories of the two women was a masterstroke.
Julie and Julia were not similar as people: Child, with her iconic warbling speech and towering height, was adventurous and outgoing. Julie Powell was a self-described underachiever, even a bit of a loser.
But it's the twin stories of Julia and Julie finding themselves through their love of food that makes this film such a tasty cinematic meal.
Video extras are decent for the DVD, but the real frisson comes with the Blu-ray version.
Both formats include "Secret Ingredients," a 27-minute making-of documentary, and a commentary track by Ephron. The doc is interesting enough -- Streep reveals that she gained 15 pounds while shooting the film -- but tends to be a lot of everyone talking about how great everyone else was. Ephron's commentary is entertaining but rather sparse, going silent for long stretches.
Several more extras are exclusive to Blu-ray. There is a 47-minute featurette of family and friends reminiscing about Julia Childs, which includes tons of photographs and tidbits about her life. There are five video cooking lessons, including Julia herself poaching eggs and making Hollandaise sauce.
"Julia's Kitchen," a 22-minute doc about the process of transporting Child's entire home kitchen for display at the Smithsonian, is unexpectedly riveting, with its intimate trip through her personal cooking tools and tchochkes.
Movie: 4 stars
Extras: 3.5 stars