No, this isn't a look into gals who drink mass amounts of booze on film. This is a look into Julia Child. (Although, of course, the chef had a definitive love of libations.) Julie & Julia is finally making its way to theaters on August 7, and as early reviews and responses come in, one thing is certain: Meryl Streep steals the show.
This is no surprise. As loved as Amy Adams is, it's hard to live up to the powerhouse -- especially when Streep has so perfectly embodied a woman most could never hope of mimicking. Every clip that comes out (see a good collection of them here), is practically Child on the screen herself. Streep's got the iconic voice, the spunk, and even -- somehow -- the stature. (Meryl Streep is 5'6", and Child was 6'2".)
Adams, dare I say it, almost seems out of her element -- and not in an "everywoman learning to cook" sort of way. Where her exuberance and charisma usually seeps out of her -- in everything from Drop Dead Gorgeous and Psycho Beach Party to Sunshine Cleaning and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day -- the Julie-centric clips don't hold the same magic.
Perhaps the magic ties together in the full feature, but this just leaves me thinking about those times when wonderful female performances are stuck in films that don't live up to their acting achievements. I'm not saying that Julie & Julia is a waste. It looks like a fun film, and will surely do decent business. But as The New Yorker has already said, this match is "not a fair fight... When Adams, as Julie, is on the screen, it necessarily means that Streep, as Julia, is not, and you come to resent her for this." Whether audiences come to resent Julie's presence or not, the masses are already falling for Julia.
But this isn't a movie about the chef. It's a fictionalized look into Julie Powell's experiences with Mastering the Art of French Cooking, with a dollop of Child's life on the side. That same New Yorker piece wondered if a biopic would've worked without Julie's contribution. I don't see how or why it wouldn't. Child's magic was having the culinary know-how mixed with spunk that made her adored by the masses, and I think it's quite clear that Child and Streep know how to draw a crowd.
Will we ever reach a time where scene stealers won't have to be "helped" by what's considered to be more mainstream characterizations? This project comes from a book by Julie Powell, so really it all started with her, but the notion that a foodie icon needs a flustered, fall-on-the-floor-and-cry co-star to make it work is insulting.
I just comfort myself with my pipe dream that Streep will bring Child to life again. We've got remakes, reboots, and reboots of remakes. We've got battling pictures based on the same person or moment. So why not pick out Streep's Julia and show more of her life -- not as an anecdote, but a larger, starring story? Julie & Julia could be the teaser to something even more in-depth. ... But I'm not holding my breath.
So, I wonder: Is it a waste when a wonderful female performance shows up as only a slice of a larger whole that doesn't compare? Great slivers of cinema are surely better than nothing, but in a world where it's rare to see unique female characters, grasping for slices of greatness can be rather irksome. No one wants to see a movie where half of the time they're waiting for someone to come on screen.
In the sea of supporting female roles and scene-stealers, which do you wish had taken center stage? Which performances ripped themselves out of the mediocre confines that surrounded them and were the most worthy of starring status?