Julie & Julia
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Julie & Julia melds the analogous stories of cooking legend Julia Child's life in 1950s France with the modern-day tale of writer Julie Powell's real-life quest to prepare all 524 recipes in Child's classic tome Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The film neatly covers Child's life in post-World War II Paris with her foreign diplomat husband Paul, her foray into and eventual mastery of French cooking, and the difficulties she encountered while trying to publish her groundbreaking cookbook. Intercut with Child's story is Powell's decision to shake up her life as an unfulfilled government employee in post-9/11 New York by challenging herself to cook and blog. Her inevitable trials (she burns an important meal, gets in trouble at work and pisses off her husband) and victories (a perfectly poached egg, a write-up in the New York Times) are all included.
WHO'S IN IT?
Ever lovely Amy Adams plays endearingly bedraggled Julie with hopeful conviction and Chris Messina is cute and convincing as her sweetly supportive husband. It is, of course, Meryl Streep who steals the show with her joyful, high-energy portrayal of the 6-foot-2 master chef. Streep, as she is apt to do, turns in a nuanced, humanizing and wholly hilarious portrayal of a cultural icon many associate with Dan Akroyd's impressions on Saturday Night Live.
Stanley Tucci proves a savvy, charismatic match for Streep as Paul Child, Julia's affectionate, charming and unflinchingly supportive husband. Jane Lynch momentarily steals Streep's spotlight as Julia's equally tall, equally whirling dervishy sister Dorothy.
Julie's life in Queens is populated by Mary Lynn Rajskub, who plays her pragmatic friend, and Casey Wilson and Vanessa Ferlito, who make memorable cameos as Julie's condescending, corporate ladder-climbing, carb-avoiding frenemies.
All of it. Nora Ephron's script elegantly weaves the story of Child in Paris and Powell in Queens, portraying both locales as the prettiest, freshest versions of themselves. The film is a joy to look at not only for the sumptuous shots of Powell's many creations and Child's rich French fare, but also for the pristine recreation of the style and fashion of 1950s Paris. It will make you want to drink champagne cocktails, wear chiffon and eat chocolate cake. And beef. And bruschetta. And anything else available.
The film is superbly acted and manages to be funny, inspiring and poignant without falling into schlocky chick-flick territory. The story is refreshing in its depiction of two happy, drama-free marriages. The true romance here is with all the gorgeous food, which Streep, Tucci, Adams and especially Messina consume with joyful gusto.
At just over two hours, the film runs a bit long, especially for a comedy. Although it never slows or bores, several scenes about publishing the cookbook could have been shortened or cut completely to pick up the pace. While the ending is lovely, the film then wraps up a bit hastily.
Julia first learning her cookbook might be published and frenetically rushing into the house screaming "Paul! Paul, Paul, Paul!" while nearly tripping over herself has just a slight advantage over the scene in which Julie confronts her moral dilemma about killing lobsters and is subsequently traumatized while boiling them alive.
Finely crafted from start to finish, Meryl and the food take the cake, so to speak, in terms of star power. The movie is lighthearted fare for anyone desiring inspiration in the kitchen or any other life department, for that matter.
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 1/2 stars.