Julie & Julia
Directed by Nora Ephron
Columbia Pictures, 2009
By Brian Last
Often in television, films, and real life, people bond through food. If not through cooking together and realizing you are in love with this person who is cramming sauce down your throat, it’s over a nice meal with friends or family. Food definitely brings people together, but rarely does it inspire. Well, for one Julie Powell (Amy Adams), food changes her life. In this charming and inspired film, Amy Adams and Meryl Streep (as Julia Child) star opposite each other — literally at opposite ends of a fifty year gap. And in spite of the fact that they don’t appear in a scene together, their parallel stories coalesce into a creation as rich as any of Child’s.
Julia Child’s story starts in 1949 in Paris. She moves there with her husband Paul, who works for the U.S. Embassy. Even though she always has a smile on her face, she is bored and doesn’t know what to do with her time or life. She is at a crossroads and after trying a few hobbies she goes to her obvious choice… FOOD! She always talks about her love of being around it and eating it, may as well learn how to make it. She becomes the fastest learning student at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school. She only gets better and soon the student becomes the teacher. She gets connected with some other chefs and together they try to create the great French cookbook, but for Americans… and in English.
Take the ultimate sci fi or comic book fan boy, but replace comics with food and you have Julie Powell. Her story takes place in 2002 she works for an insurance company for families that have health issues due to 9/11 . Her job leaves her depressed and unfulfilled. Her friends are all big time successes and she is left behind in her apartment above a pizza shop in Queens. She always enjoys cooking and has always admired Julia Child, so she takes it upon herself to cook every recipe in Child’s cookbook, 525 to be exact. She challenges herself to do this in a year, and she blogs the whole story. As she goes along in her journey, her popularity grows and a whole legion of fans take the trip with her. Julie sees a lot of parallels between herself and Julia Child and treats Julia like she is her guiding light.
Whether writing a cookbook, or mastering your idol’s cookbook, both are monumental tasks. The men behind the women play just as important a part, and kept them going to achieve their goal. Both Paul Child (Stanley Tucci) and Eric Powell (Chris Menssia) play big parts in their wives’ lives. They were always there for the rough patches, and stuck it out to see the finished product.
Meryl Streep was great as Julia Child. She was a delightful ball of positive energy that always made people laugh. She was always smiling and sometimes the way she spoke was almost as musical as singing. Amy Adams had a very likable personality, so you always found yourself rooting for her. In this film she needed it, for she really played down and desperate very well. She goes through pitfalls where you want to hate her but she comes out the other side having grown just a little more. In more ways than one, her subtle weight gain added a sense of realism, just like Streep playing the 6′2 Child even though she is 5′6. Streep mastered being tall through how she handled herself and played off the shorter people and we bought it.
Even though this is not the type of film I would see normally, I went in with an open mind and I enjoyed it. The pacing was well done and the transitions between Julie and Julia’s stories was seamless. Even though the movie was two hours long, it really didn’t seem like it for I was drawn into the story and Streep’s electric personality. Much like how Sideways brought back wine, I think this film could bring back the joy of cooking; it may inspire people to take a step back from their take out menus and a take a step towards the stove.