JULIE AND JULIA is one of the rare "new" movies to pull me into a theater. Longtime readers may recall that I've been anticipating this movie for quite a while, and it didn't disappoint.
The film tells the parallel stories of Julia Child and Julie Powell. Julia (Meryl Streep) and her husband Paul (Stanley Tucci) live in post-WWII France, where Julia learns to cook and ultimately writes MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING. These scenes are juxtaposed with the 2002 life of Julie Powell (Amy Adams), who lives in an exceedingly rundown Queens apartment with her husband Eric (Chris Messina); Julie decides to blog her way through cooking every recipe in Child's cookbook, which leads to her own success as a writer.
It's no surprise that Meryl Streep more than lives up to expectations and her reviews, capturing the essence of Child -- unique voice and all -- but never letting her become a caricature. Stanley Tucci is equally wonderful as Julia's supportive, admiring husband, Paul, who enjoys the whirlwind that is Julia. My favorite scene is when Julia is searching for a word to describe a food and Paul supplies "tangy" -- Julia's appreciation for him is very dear.
Amy Adams is an appealing actress and the segments with Julie and Eric Powell are watchable, but they do tend to pale in comparison with the Child portions of the film. I think the biggest reason for this is that the Child segments are upbeat, positive, and funny, whereas Julie's story is rather depressing. Her "new" Queens apartment is filthy, and she is stuck in a downer of a cubicle job helping people impacted by 9/11.
Of course, much of the point of Julie's story is that immersing herself in cooking Julia's recipes provided inspiration and changed Julie's life for the better...but it's just not as much fun as watching Julia and Paul Child. The Childs had their own disappointments -- Julia's longing for a child and Paul's career frustrations are touched on gently -- but despite that, they have an inspiring joie de vivre paired with determination.
The supporting cast includes Jane Lynch as Julia's sister Dorothy, Linda Emond as Julia's coauthor Simone Beck, Erin Dilly as editor Judith Jones, Frances Sternhagen as JOY OF COOKING author Irma Rombauer, and Mary Lynn Rajskub as Julie's friend Sarah.
JULIE AND JULIA was written and directed by Nora Ephron. It runs 123 minutes.
Parental advisory: This movie is rated PG-13. There is some foul language and very brief sensuality. On the flip side, the movie depicts committed, happy marriages and characters who set difficult goals and achieve their dreams.
Additional reviews of the movie: the L.A. Times, USA Today, and the Boston Herald.
Related book links: MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING; MY LIFE IN FRANCE; THE TENTH MUSE: MY LIFE IN FOOD by Julia's editor, Judith Jones; BACKSTAGE WITH JULIA; JULIA CHILD by Laura Shapiro.
I have all of these books; I especially recommend Child's MY LIFE IN FRANCE which is a great read whether or not you are interested in cooking. Julia's "can do" attitude and perseverance make her a great role model for us all.