Flix Character Spotlight: Paul Child in “Julie & Julia”

It doesn’t matter what the critics think of the films he’s in, or how small the role he has, Stanley Tucci always delivers. Beginning with Big Night, which he also produced, co-wrote and co-directed, he has given great to awesome performances in A Life Less Ordinary, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (as Puck!), America’s Sweethearts, Maid in Manhattan, and The Devil Wears Prada. Of his most recent films, I’ve not seen Burlesque or The Lovely Bones. (The latter’s subject matter will likely keep me away from it for the foreseeable future, even though Tucci got Screen Actors Guild, Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations for his performance). I did see last year’s Easy A though, in which he plays the dad of the title character, the kind of dad that’s so cool, everyone wishes he was theirs. He can also be seen in theaters at the moment in Captain America, giving the stock comic book character of a brilliant scientist with a crazy idea as much depth and likability as can possibly be crammed into a few scenes.

My favorite role of Tucci’s, though, is Paul Child in Julie & Julia. As Ruth pointed out in her 8th wedding anniversary post, “There aren’t a whole lot of movies that celebrate marriage in Hollywood, those that portray ‘em realistically or in a good light are a few and far in between.” Ruth was writing about Carl and Ellie’s marriage in Up, and I submit Paul and Julia in Julie & Julia as another example of a realistic celluloid marriage.

Tucci has such great chemistry with his Devil Wears Prada co-star Meryl Streep that they are possibly the most believable married couple I’ve ever seen on film. She’s much taller than he is, she can’t have children, and she’s obsessed with food. His State Department career is derailed by McCarthyism. Her father never approves of him. They weather all of it with love and constant support for each other. At a Valentine’s Day dinner, Paul’s short speech to Julia melted my heart.

Rarely have I seen adult married people say things like this so believably to each other in the movies. It’s the writing, and the fact that it’s based on a true story, certainly, but it takes the actors to make it work.

Of course, Streep is excellent. She basically becomes Julia Child. But Tucci excels as well, in a quieter way. His expressions and gestures are sometimes fleeting but always so authentic, as seen in this clip:

It takes place near the beginning of the film, when the Childs have just moved to France for his job. They are discussing what she should do with her time while he is working. Watch for Tucci’s brief “are you crazy?” look and speedy recovery. That’s just one little example in a movie full of a ton more. I have to say he’s adorable in it.

Tucci is one of those actors who’s always working. He’s got Margin Call in the can and has just signed on for The Hunger Games, so I have at least one reason to see that.

What do you think of Stanley Tucci? What’s your favorite role(s) he’s done so far?

27 thoughts on “Flix Character Spotlight: Paul Child in “Julie & Julia”

  1. PrairieGirl

    I think I have probably seen more Tucci than I realize, because he’s a chameleon, just blending his characters into films with such ease. I whole-heartily agree with you – he’s superb as Paul Child.

  2. stanley tucci…aside from his recent brilliance in easy a…he was the bad guy in murder one, for so long after watching that show i could only ever think of him as that nasty piece of work. the sign of a good performance? especially as he’s so charming in other roles.

  3. Hi, Ruth and company:

    Stanley Tucci has been a slowly honing, “Who’s that guy?” Jack Of All Trades character actor who has worked his way up from background extra to television guest star to larger, beefier roles wherever he goes.

    Thought he was great in ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ and ‘Julie & Julia’. Very understated. Yet more than able to deliver when the scene called for it. Curious to see where his career goes from here.

    1. ‘Jack of All Trades’ is right, Jack. I think character actors often does a better job than the lead… and Stanley often steals the spotlight in the movies he’s in. Anybody has seen The Lovely Bones? He played the villain in that one, right? He looks so creepy in the trailer.

    2. Hi Jack, I think you’re right, his understatement is part of what makes Tucci great. I’m curious too to see what he does next. I think he probably has a lot of options at this point.

  4. Ted S.

    I’ve never seen Julia & Julia but I’ve seen a few of Tucci’s work. He’s definitely one of those character actors who can bland into any role he plays. If I had to choose my favorite, I think I’ll go with his turn as the assassin in The Pelican Brief.

  5. LOVE this, Paula… and thanks for mentioning my ‘UP’ post!

    I remember really, really liking Paul Child in this movie… and I was kinda bummed that everyone was praising Meryl during award season and there seemed to be none left for Stanley. I know it’s a subtler performance but it’s perfect and sooo engaging. I know I’ve mentioned ‘It Could Happen To You’ which isn’t exactly a great movie (more of a guilty pleasure) but I hated his character in that one. He’s so believable in anything he’s done, good or bad. Great choice to put a spotlight on!

    1. Thanks & you’re welcome, Ruth 🙂

      I too was frustrated that he kind of got ignored. It often seems to me like the subtler the performance, the more it gets lost (particularly, it seems to me, for the Academy…but that’s another post maybe LOL).

      I’d have to watch ICHTY again, maybe i will just to see Stanley…i think somebody that can provoke that kind of reaction even in a so-so picture is doing something right 🙂

  6. He was amazing in “The Lovely Bones” I barely knew it was him. There’s not a lot of love for that film, but I dug the book and thought the movie version was a pretty decent. It was a monumental task to try and attempt the translation.

    1. Hey, I just asked if someone has seen The Lovely Bones. Thanks Markus. I’m still curious to see that film, I mean it’s by Peter Jackson, how bad could it be?

  7. yes, although the film was disappointing, especially having in mind brilliant actors and an even more brilliant idea for the film, both Tucci and Meryl were amazing as usually. And it’s true that their love was really realistic and believable! The two of them basically made the film worth watching.

  8. I wasn’t particularly fond of Julie and Julia but you’re right about Stanley Tucci. It doesn’t matter if the film he’s in is poor, he always delivers. Again, I think he’s the best thing about Julie and Julia and you’re right to highlight his role in the film.

    1. Thanks Dan 🙂 I liked the movie. it’s not an instant classic or anything liked that, but i did enjoy it. It does have kind of an odd structure and the Julia part was more interesting to me than the Julie part for whatever reason.

  9. I love Stanley Tucci, he is a great character actor and always a joy to watch. Great spotlight of his character in Julie & Julia, a movie I quite enjoyed!

  10. Great post, Paula. Paul Child is one of my favorite characters and the scenes you featured are two of the best in this delightful movie. Guess Meryl Streep brings out the best in Tucci; my favorite performances by him are when he’s next to Meryl.

    1. Hi Fernando! Yes indeed he was fabulous. I love how the film captured their loving marriage, it’s so rare to see as what you often see in Hollywood is movies about infidelity and the dark stuff. Yes I love the scenes of them together, both of them are brilliant!

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