Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tall order: Streep as Julia

I consumed "Julie and Julia" like a small box of Teuscher truffles– greedily, quickly. But the costumes stayed with me. Not Amy Adams' generic young-professional attire, but Streep's '40s and '50s WASP wear.

For I am a Ju
lia, tall, big-boned, enthusiastically cusineacious. How did the filmmakers present the average-height (5'6") Streep as Child, a towering 6'2"?

The sets were slightly shrunken, benches and counters altered to make her loom. She wore heels the real Julia would have avoided like curdled cream.


Camera angles did their magic, but the costume designers, led by the incomparable Ann Roth, have earned a Costumer Designers Guild nomination for best period costumes (deservedly shared with Catherine Leterrier for "Coco Before Chanel").
A lot of shots cut off Streep's feet so you couldn't see the boosters, or hid them behind props.

Streep wore hidden platforms in her shoes to help her loom above Stanley Tucci. But even more than this stagecraft, I reveled in the formality-within-ease of her clothes. Not one interlock gave its life for Julia's wardrobe.

We were back in the world of woven-fabric blouses, frosted with fine lace. Pants were wool; sweaters, cashmere, pearls permanently in place.

Julia's clothes fit her, despite a large frame. At one point she mentions that she can't shop for dresses with the other expat wives in Paris, because nothing is made in her size. I thought, it's no different today. Her sister must have sent boxes from Peck & Peck.

Not everything evoked a wave of longing. Stiff hats nestled into little pincurled coifs, like those worn by Linda Emond playing haute-bourgeoise Simca Beck, did not call to me.

There is not a false note in the costumes. The Americans in Paris look different that the Parisiens. Streep as Julia evokes my friends and family's attire in the late '50s to mid-'60s, before psychedelic prints and bellbottoms.

I was also captivated by the costuming of Stanley Tucci as Paul Child, especially his bold turquoise ring. Not many straight men would dare this. But Child, a character in his own right, had served in China with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Maybe the ring was a souvenir of that posting.

At any rate, it served as symbol of his suave unconventionality and self-possession. I hope Tucci kept it.

24 comments:

metscan said...

I saw this movie too. I am amazed how `at home´Meryl Streep is in everyone of her movies. In everyone of them ( said it twice )! She was perfectly at ease with her wardrobe ( again ), and her tallness didn´t bother me at all. She stood and sat straight. I think that tall people ´stand up´negatively, if they try to hide their height. If you are tall, why hide it? Make the most of it. Wear tall heels, if you fancy them. It is also important that you wear clothes that fit your size. Well, all I´m saying here is just saying the same things, you already wrote in your post.

Deja Pseu said...

I'm with you on the costuming...impeccable!!

A co-worker and I were recently discussing how Streep just totally *inhabited* the character of Julia Child and the costuming was part of that. She didn't seem like she was wearing "period" clothing. Some of her jewelry was fantastic too. I'm still swooning over that monogram brooch.

Frugal Scholar said...

I haven't seen the movie--I did love JC's "My Life in France" and HATED the Julie/Julia book. What you really get from the book is how important Paul Child was to Julia's success--and happiness. He was NOT a typical 50s and 60s guy. He was an artist. As for the ring--perhaps PC really did wear it. The book recounts how PC got in trouble with the state department; he was suspected of being gay.

I guess if you are over 6 feet you have to accept yourself. Nowhere to hide.

As for the fashion--erghhh--my nemesis--tucked in shirts.

LPC said...

Somehow Meryl Streep broke my heart playing Julia. I think it was the moment when she cried about her sister's pregnancy. That, and the dauntless optimism.

Toby Wollin said...

At our house, we have declared this film as the proper half to the foodie double feature which includes Stanley Tucci's "Big Night". I asked for the dvd for the holidays as my gift just so I could hit the pause button at certain points to study the costumes. I am still trying to figure out how to make the navy blue party dress that Julia wears on the night that her sister (Jane Lynch) meets her future husband. I think that dress is just fantastic - I need one truly lovely dress in the closet that I can wear out to everything dressy and to me, that navy dress is IT. Anyone have any ideas what it's made of? Taffeta? Dupioni? Inquiring Minds Want to Know!

L'age moyen said...

I have yet to see this movie - I'm looking forward to it and the pairing of it with 'Big Night' is a fabulous idea.

Something that men seem to have maintained and women have lost is that notion of dressing in a comfortable, practical, timeless and, yes, stylish way. When I flip through The Sartorialist (which I love to do) there are so many men over forty who have built their wardrobe on basic pieces that they might update or combine with more or less whimsy. They have maintained the building blocks for style over time. Women, on the other hand, seem to have lost those building blocks, and by that I mean most of us have discarded skirts in favour of pants, blouses for t-shirts, cardigans for polar fleece. It's not that we shouldn't be comfortable and warm which men's clothes have going for them in spades, it's just that we don't need to try to look good in jeans, or leggings or yoga wear, we can wear the clothes that we 'own' and adapt them for the times (accessories) and use them to communicate both femininity and individualism. For me it's one of the appeals of movies set before the '70s - it's women looking like grown-ups and looking wonderful. Not that we can go back but maybe we could reclaim the clothes that are rightfully ours and make them work for us now. Maybe then we'd see a few more women over forty captured by the Sartorialist's lense.

Duchesse said...

metscan: I no longer wear heels, but it has nothing to do with concern over height (1m78).

Pseu: Yes, that brooch was superb! Perhaps she will bring back 'real'clothes.

Frugal: Never wanted to read the book; in the film there are allusions to his disappointment re his career.

Toby: I'll vote taffeta! The dress is my fantasy too, maybe we can find a dressmaker and have two made.

l'age moyen: I'm so grateful for your comment. You have described my "clothing loneliness" to a T- not tee. I don't want those stupid silk ties we wore with suits in the '80s (well I did), but to the dresses with beautiful draping and Irish linen blouses that were all but gone by the '70s.

I saw a museum exhibit here several years ago of postwar fashion: hand-loomed tweed suits, Dior evening coats, tailored raincoats- and swooned.

I'll be posting soon on some Sartorialist shots of mature women, they are all Italians.

g said...

It was a really marvelous movie. Streep is such a great actress.

The clothes remind me a lot of things my mom wore.

Vix said...

Nothing much to say as this movie is still on my "to see" list -- but I'm seconding the rec for JC's "My Life in France" as it includes so many wonderful letters by both JC and PC to friends and family.

Paul's letters stand out (and yes, his role in the OSS was that of a creative/"artiste," so the ring may have been a re-creation).

I have a feeling the book may give a more in-depth look at Julia's creative process than the film, but I'm sure the film's costumes make up for that!

lady jicky said...

This is a wonderful movie!
The look and the feel of that time was excellent as was Tucci and Streep!

Duchesse said...

g: My opinion is that Streep "made" the movie, which is pretty typical Hollywood, but very pleasing.

Vix: The ring establishes his character (He wears it in every scene, I think) as I've heard costume designers say they aim to do.

lady jickey: One can still find the same dishes Julia loved readily in Paris, but not, in The US the clothes!

lagatta temporarily acrross the pond said...

L'age moyen, I also love looking at postwar clothing as my mum, while even poorer than "of modest means" would describe, had the fashion bug and made herself exquisite tailored clothing. She loved the "New Look" as she had been a war worker in Ottawa, and in a national capital the military look was pretty much mandatory. It did have its charms though. I have a wonderful photo of my mum as a young woman with pitch-black hair with a very premature white streak in it (her colleagues affectionately called her "Flower" after the sweet skunk in Bambi)in a severe black dress she made herself, with a white collar, by a 1940s telephone). I don't care for framed family photos much - neither my cat nor my sweetie warrants one, though of course I have photos of them - but this photo is of historical and artistic as well as sentimental interest.

For maman, this Look symbolised liberation, perhaps it was ironic that liberation took the form of unabashed femininity.

But as a very busty person with very small, sloping shoulders (an old-fashioned body type) I am very relieved that t-shirts of the more elegant type (silk, hemp, fine cotton) can sub for blouses. Blouses were a nightmare for me, even if too large they gaped and unlike the Queen I couldn't afford to have them made to fit.

I had avoided this film as the "Julie" part bored me but I guess I'll sit through that to see Julia. Right now I'm in Amsterdam where Julia would still be slightly above average height for a woman. Duchesse is pretty much an average Dutchwoman.

But Duchesse, this is serendipity: I'd been avoiding visiting my secret pleasure websites and either working or walking around, but I happened to see this: http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/fashion-beauty/Past+perfect/2537877/story.html

The Golden Age of Couture show (think it was at the V&A) has opened in Québec City. Perhaps a stretch to go there from Toronto, but from Montréal it is not much of a jaunt by car bus or train.

By the way, anyone of 60 or older can take a Canadian VIA train with a friend (or relative or...) and the second person of whatever age doesn't have to pay). So the equivalent of half-off if you travel together.

Duchesse said...

lagatta: So kind of you to post while traveling! Pls feel free to comment @ Pdesp to tell us what you're observing! Hope you are having a marvelous time.

The Royal Ontario Museum presented the fantastic exhibition "Elite Elegance: Couture Fashions in the 1950s" in '02. Curated from their own collection bequeathed by Canadian women. Breathtaking; I returned several times. I'll be using that train discount to visit son in Mtl before too long.

Imogen Lamport, AICI CIP said...

Really enjoyed this Meryl Streep in this film - they did an excellent job of making her look so tall!

metscan said...

Hi Duchesse-Surprise! Please come visit my blog!

Black Diamond Rings said...
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Duchesse said...

Black D.: Welcome... However, comments from a commercial web site will be treated as spam; if you'd like to comment as 'you', please sign your post. This is done to keep Passage des perles a community.

Bummble said...

I very much enjoyed the movie, and especially Meryl Streeps attitude and voice!

The 'Julie' parts were ok to start with, then got boring, and towards the end just pathetic, whiny and saccharine.

I'm still considering buying the DVD, so I can just watch the 'Julia' parts!

Duchesse said...

Bummble: Wouldn't it be enjoyable to have a version with "all Julia"?

Miss Janey said...

Miss Janey just rented this. The vintage costumes were noteworthy, the contemporary were forgettable.
And the Goddess Streep- there is no actress working to day that is of her caliber.

Duchesse said...

Miss Janey: She made this movie for me!

sallymandy said...

I agree. The costuming was fantastic, and I remember the movie as much for its visual presence as for the story (and of course, Meryl's acting can't be forgotten).

Unfortunately, I have more recently seen Stanley Tucci in "Lovely Bones" and he was so creepy, I may never like him in any role again.

But that's off topic.

Duchesse said...

sallymandy: Liked the book very much but would not see the movie b/c so many reviews were lacklustre, and now you have given me more reason. Want to enjoy my Stanley warm or at least uncreepy.

ClaireOKC said...

Oh I loved Julia's costumes as well. Being a designer I'm lucky that I can have many of the garments that Julia wore, in natural fibers. Having started my formative years during this period, I do not miss the more constrictive undergarments, but I do miss the grace and style.