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?