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Julie and Julia
August 19, 2009

Saw Julie & Julia this afternoon and LOVED it! So much fun — it’s all about the love of making good food and how couples stay together and in love even when they’re learning how to be adults. It’s so rare to see passionate mature people on screen that I think that’s what I will take away from it longest: I want to be as in love as Paul and Julia Child were for all of my life.

Paul and Julia Child (Stanley Tucci, Meryl Streep)

Paul and Julia Child (Stanley Tucci, Meryl Streep)

Meryl Streep is getting most of the praise, and she deserves it. She makes a caricature, perhaps best known today as the crazy clumsy cooking woman Dan Ackroyd played on Saturday Night Life (also shown in the movie), into a real human being with drives and disappointments and understanding hard work to achieve something she thought important. But I also really appreciated Stanley Tucci’s work as Paul, who turns what could be a slightly silly man into a very attractive, supportive partner, even when he’s dealing with his own worries. (The two could also be surprisingly raunchy, especially for that era!)

In the modern-day sections, Amy Adams is Julie, a New York City cubicle worker who created a blog to cook all of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking recipes (524) in one year. What began as a lark quickly took over her life, as blogs so often do, and then it became a book. I was surprised to see the blog was still up (started in 2002, last updated in 2004).

Critics have said that her sections of the movie weren’t as interesting as Child’s, which is true, but not enough so as to damage the film. Child is larger than life, living in 50s Paris — it’s beautiful and escapist and fantastic, like a fable. Julie’s life is much more easy to relate to. She feels like she isn’t living up to her potential. She and her husband are happy, but they’re living in a walkup over a pizza joint while her college friends are VPs or notable magazine writers. She needs a purpose, as so many of us do, although when she finds one, she takes it too far and becomes obsessed with it, to the neglect of other things. She is much more whom many of us are. And Adams does a wonderful job, as always.

Julie and Eric Powell (Amy Adams, Chris Messina)

Julie and Eric Powell (Amy Adams, Chris Messina)

I wasn’t previously familiar with Chris Messina, who plays Julie’s husband Eric, but he also serves the role well, supporting her without being a wuss. Plenty of familiar faces showed up in supporting roles, with a particular favorite playing Child’s taller sister (but I won’t spoil the surprise). Nora Ephron is to be commended for writing and directing such a life-affirming, terrific film.

Other random thoughts: Butter does make anything to eat better, and it’s used copiously here. It’s amazing to me that anyone could cook anything in a typical tiny NYC apartment, let alone Lobster Thermidor or Boneless Duck en Croute or some of the pastries. With so much conversation among female authors about food and trying to get published and their need for goals in life, this is the perfect antidote for all those movies where women do nothing but serve as objects for men to rescue or fight over. Funny and inspiring, full of joie de vivre!

5 Responses  
Alan Coil writes:  

I’ll be seeing this soon. Meryl Streep playing Julia Child must be a hoot! I didn’t read more of your comments than that you loved it. I like to go into a movie as cold as possible.

 
Tim Rifenburg writes:  

Johanna,

I was hoping you would review this movie because I was curious about your take on it. This seemed to have all the things you like (mature relationships, female empowerment, emotional connection to the work, etc.) in the comics and manga you read. I thought Streep was fantastic and I’m constantly amazed at how she just diappears into a role. I liked the cutting back and forth between the 2 characters lives from different eras. I remarked to my wife that it was nice to see a movie about characters that liked each other. It was the type of movie you used to see a lot of and now is a rarity. Haven’t enjoyed a movie like this in a while. Thanks for the review. Tim

 
Johanna writes:  

Thanks for your comments, Tim. It’s always interesting to hear someone else’s perspective on my tastes, because they’ll see things I’m too close to notice.

 
Hsifeng writes:  

Check this one out too, it’s a 10-minute YouTube clip of Julia Child cooking primordial soup: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pt0rIZ3ZNE

:)

 
Used DVD Bonanza at Hollywood Video » DVDs Worth Watching writes:  

[...] & Julia — Loved it when I saw it in the theater, and I was curious to hear writer/director Nora Ephron’s commentary. Plus, I’ll get [...]

 
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