A very pleasant picture serving two distinct dishes made from the delicate but delicious-if-done-right recipe of relationships, ambition, and personal passion. The cast is excellent (though Streep is the clear star with her hilarious and effortlessly charming Julia) and the multi-faceted writing is well-balanced (the letter/blog voiceovers add a wonderful warm butter-like flavour to savour throughout), with Eric’s sudden departure and the “Julia hates me” thread left hanging the only missteps.
The beautiful opening shot starts things off well, and the way the movie tenderly teases the inevitable coupling right up until the sweet final scene and line (“It’s nice to meet you”) is to be lauded too, but a lot of the stuff IB (in between) is WTF (what the fuck), like Acronym Jessica, Annoying Jonah, Allergic-thus-Unattractive-Walter, and that one painful scene that’s just a 5 minute long movie recap followed by a woman’s husband and brother making fun of her for having emotions?? Wut?
Call me bewitched but I found this really charming. It doesn’t waste any screen time (love how it introduces the “want to be normal” crisis right off the bat), and the many narrative states (on TV, in real-life, in a dream, in an alternative timeline, under a spell) put a unique twist on the typical romantic arc. Ferrell and Kidman are both engaging in their own way, and the side characters have their moments too (Nina especially: “We could electrocute him. There’s a ton of wires around here”).
The dated email motif fortunately stays in the background, so the first two acts end up being quite engaging, with the leads exuding charm and chemistry in a dramatic irony plot that’s fleshed out really nicely in the clever cinematography, thoughtful voiceovers, and online vs. offline character development. The third act adds emotion (“Do you ever feel you’ve become the worst version of yourself?”) but also discomfort with the halved irony and weird end to the big box vs. small shop sub-plot.