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I have a new respect for the system of rating films by giving them stars: it can spare critics the bother of saying more than they need to say about a movie.
Roger Ebert walked out of Julie & Julia with some ideas in his head that had been stirred up by but weren't necessarily about Nora Ephron's movie. If the film had been brilliant, Ebert no doubt would have been dwelling on it, but instead his thoughts shifted to its subjects: Julia Child and Julie Powell. As for Child, "In 30-minute programs on TV, she was priceless. But to live with her, I suspect, must have taken the patience of a saint." As for Powell, "The dinner bell seems to have rung at the Powell household after midnight, although the wait was mellowed by a remarkable number of martinis."
As for the movie itself, "If the men had been portrayed as more high spirited,it might have taken on intriguing dimensions. Both husbands are, frankly, a little boring."
A young, hungry critic might have felt obliged to closely argue why the movie isn't better. Ebert, to his credit, didn't bother. He simply meandered away from it. He concluded, "I am currently writing a cookbook titled The Pot and How to Use It, about how you can cook almost anything in a rice cooker. Take my word for it, it's not going to take anyone a year to cook their way through this one."
Ebert likes to say a movie isn't about what it's about but the way it's about it. In this case, he wrote about what it's about. I'm a fan of Meryl Streep playing light, and we own a genuine serving spoon from Julia Child's personal kitchen, so I read Ebert's review with interest, hoping for reasons to gallop to the multiplex. No such reasons were ever given, but it was such a genial review I had to glance at the stars to get my bearings.
Two and a half stars. Which is a way of saying a movie this commercial is a failure. But there's no reason not to be kind...