August 7, 2009
United States (English)
Written and Directed by Nora Ephron (Based on the book by Julie Powell)
"Julie & Julia" is a fascinating time-hopping bio-pic, only you'll wish more time could be spent with the latter woman thanks to a tremendous performance by Meryl Streep and given its far more compelling arc of the dual storylines.
Julie Powell exists in the 21st Century, living in New York City and working in a call center. To fight the mundanity she picks up blogging as a hobby (something some of us can really relate to) and embarks on a one-year journey through Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The Julie Child we see is living in Paris circa 1950s. While there she attends Le Cordon Bleu, a school of culinary arts, which would lead her to publish the aforementioned cookbook for American homes. Both are depictions of real women (Powell in fact being responsible for the story this script is based). With the late, great Nora Ephron ("When Harry Met Sally" and "You've Got Mail") responsible for the screenplay and seated in the director's chair this movie is an absolute estrogen gala.
Pointing out as much, I had a pleasant time watching the experiences of these women unfold, even as the running time became apparent. However apparent, these two stories and performances are not created equal. Amy Adams (Miss Moving-On-Up) does fine with her role, but Powell's trajectory as an aspiring writer and experimental cook is about as interesting as it sounds. Meryl Streep owns the show and each time we visit her quaint past it is as if a window has been opened in a stuffy galley. The woman is legendary in her field and we can see and hear why. Julie Child is the John Wayne of the kitchen, a large presence in body and personality. Streep uses her own assets to channel Child's character. This is not just an impressive impression. This is a re-creation.
Adding to Child's engrossing half is her other half. Stanley Tucci plays Paul Child, a diplomat whose work brought them to France in the first place. For me it was rejuvenating to see a strong, married couple up on the silver screen in a time when it's lacking for Hollywood and the world. In an early scene Julie Powell sits in her room watching videos of Julie Child in the kitchen. Ultimately that is what we both want to see.
CONTENT: some sensuality and language