Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Bon Appétit! Julie & Julia
I’m not a film critic and I’m far more familiar with mise en place than mise en scène, but when I was invited to an advanced screening of the upcoming movie Julie & Julia, I just couldn’t resist. I have been looking forward to this foodie flick for such a long time that it was sure to either amaze me beyond belief or disappoint beyond repair. With cast of Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, and butter, you can imagine which outcome prevailed.
Julie & Julia centers on the lives of Julia Child (Meryl Streep), the acclaimed chef often credited with bringing French food to the American home and culinary programming to broadcast television (anyone who has ever worked for the Food Network has Julia Child to thank), and Julie Powell (Amy Adams), famed blogger known for chronicling her journey through Julia Child’s first cookbook over the course of one year. The two stories are juxtaposed throughout the movie, consistently jumping back and forth between Julia Child’s formative years in Paris and Julie Powell’s year of what she deems the “Julie/Julia Project.”
Often two parallel story lines in a film can be difficult and jarring, but this one was superb. Director Nora Ephron almost always used one of Julia’s recipes as a way to segue from Julia’s world to Julie’s and vice versa. It gave a humanizing looking into Julia Child’s life, showing her as a driven businesswoman, passionate chef, and loving wife. Julie Powell’s progression shows a woman who finds meaning in her life and finds her self-identity by drawing inspiration from Julia’s own rise to success.
Amy Adams’ portrayal of Powell is adorable and endearing. I often found myself rooting for Powell’s success. During one particular scene Powell has a fight with her husband (Chris Messina), and although he was supposed to be “in the right,” I found it exceedingly difficult to side with him. Meryl Streep, as always, vanished from her first “bon appétit,” as I watched Julia Child appear before my eyes. Her accent was spot on and I left loving Streep’s Julia more than the real one. Stanley Tucci’s performance as Julia’s husband, Paul Child, was excellent and just subdued enough to stay out of the way of the ladies dominating the screen.
Although the performances were engaging and the relationships authentic, the real star of Julie & Julia was the food. The movie shows how food and cooking can bring people together, provide meaning, and become a metaphor for so many life lessons. In a country dominated by fast food, pre-made, ready-to-eat sludge, if Julie & Julia can inspire a handful of American’s to put down a remote and pick up a whisk, then the film is a triumph. So what does this all boil down to (pun intended)? Julie & Julia is, in a word, delicious.
Julie & Julia – 5 Sparkles *****
Opens August 7, 2009