Saturday, February 20, 2010

JULIE AND JULIA (Nora Ephron, 2009)


This is why you don't adapt a blog: you end up a with a movie where nothing happens. Other than Meryl Streep playing Robin Williams playing Daniel Day Lewis playing Julia Child. Whatever this is, it isn't acting - this is a whole new realm of Grotesque. Just give the woman her sixth Oscar already. Maybe she'll ditch the funny voices.

(Since Ephron struggles to devise a feature's worth of dramatic or comedic interest, we are treated to a clip of Dan Aykroyd's SNL impression of La Child. It's not only funnier, but more grounded.)

--- --- EDITED ON March 06 to add: --- ---

An otherwise entertaining, characteristically/eerily perceptive post by Nick Davis on the year's Best Actress contenders set me off on a tirade languishing towards the bottom of the comments section. Since I'm not sure anyone over there will read it and since it elaborates on precisely what made this movie unendurable for me, I'll copy and paste it here:
[I hope that the venerable Mr. Davis, whose fabulous blog you ought to check out - and daily - won't mind.]

How to explain. Imagine this scenario: You pop in a DVD - the cover tells you to expect a fine bit of froth about the grandma everybody wants to have cooking for them. And sure enough, the movie begins, there's a kitchen, a grinning grandma. But the movie takes a sudden turn and plunges into a gruesomely detailed record of said grinning grandma performing a colonscopy without anaesthetic. You are astounded, mortified, irretrievably battered. You go online to seek advice on how other people found ways - if any people at all managed - to recuperate from this experience. But every other person in the world insists that all they could see is a fine bit of froth about the grandma everybody wants to have cooking for them.

There are bad yet acclaimed performances, which I know are bad, but the acclaim is sort of explicable: so when Kate Winslet creates a huggable Nazi, and I go 'You serious?' but the world goes 'How huggable!' - that's fine, that I can compute.

But when I see Meryl Streep playing Robin Williams playing Julia Child, and I go 'AAAGH!!!!', but the world goes 'the film, and Streep's performance, are lush vessels of positive feeling' - the brain cannot compute. That is not computable.

I understand, of course, that Meryl Streep can take a dump on camera and get an Oscar nomination faster than Helen Mirren can. And I've accepted that. But surely the people who would seek out and appreciate and even spell Catalina Saavedra will lose patience with this woman when they spot her fidgeting purely to make sure you don't for a moment glance away at the extras. Or when she portrays half-suppressed impatience kabuki-style so that small children outside the cinema are compelled to turn and look while the poor actors standing barely ten inches away from her are forced to pretend they can't notice anything unusual. Or when she's halfway through hurling out her tonsils while capping off her 24th sentence in a row with "what are we to DEW-OOO!!"

I swear, I'm only half-kidding. I mean, with someone like Daniel Day Plainview, you can approach that performance and ponder "when is too much really too much?" and conclude, "well, at least not when it's so transifixing and cathartic". But with DJEW-LYAH Child - every time she popped up on screen, I was downright craving the bite-sized ennui endured by Amy Adams and her repressed haircut.

I accept that art is subjective etc. But I tried to look at Djew-lyah in the same way that I would look at a sheep's colon whereby I am objectively able to ascertain that what is before me truly is a sheep's colon - whether it is a fine, moist one or otherwise. But in the case of Djew-lyah, I look and I look, and I can't track down a vantage point from which I can perceive an actor's representation of a character. Only a brutal endurance test.

All of this in the end is a very long way of saying: I promise to look by without dismay at Meryl Streep winning her 3rd Oscar (because, you know, god forbid that with Stanwyck and Ullmann earning zero, the star of Mamma Mia! should receive anything less than three). But straight after that I demand that she disappear far far away only to return a very very long time from now, having shed all the goosey grande-dameness and once again re-assumed the recognisable, palatable form of a human being.

So yes, that's that. I still don't understand how I could be alone in this. Did no one else come out of that movie wanting to punch La Streep in her smug self-satisfied face? (For the record, I do otherwise vehemently believe that violence against women is thoroughly despicable.)



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At 2:31 AM , Blogger Paul Martin said...

I quite often won't see a film because a certain actor or actress is in it. With very few exceptions (eg Adaptation), I won't see anything with Streep in it. She may once have been 'the actor of her generation', but that was a long time ago. She's pretty much a caricature of her former self, taking up roles in half-baked silly comedies, melodramas, even a musical.


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