Julie and Julia
Now Showing at: most major theaters.
Review by: Larry Thomas
It’s a given that movies about real people are prone to taking dramatic license just to spice up the proceedings, even if total accuracy is sacrificed. And sometimes that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, unless it’s a documentary, the number one purpose of a film is to provide entertainment.
Such is the case with Julie and Julia, the new film by Nora Ephron that crosses the lives of two women who never met. Julie Powell is a young woman, bored with her government clerk job, who wants more from life. After office hours, her outlet is cooking, so her husband encourages her to start a blog about this side of her life. In order to give this outlet a special twist, Julie decides to cook all five-hundred plus recipes in the Julia Child French cookbook in a one-year period, and write about the experience, and emotions, that go with such a daunting task.
The meat of the screenplay… pun intended… is the back-story of how Julia Child came to be famous, as she took up cooking while living in France. She too was bored with day-to-day activities, and co-wrote her first, now-legendary cookbook about French cooking for American cooks.
If you only know Julia Child as the first chef to gain major attention on television, this part of the film is the best. Meryl Streep, who tackles the role without making the performance a caricature or impersonation, plays Julia Child fearlessly. Her sixteenth Oscar nomination is likely in her future. The incomparable Stanley Tucci also shines as her husband Paul. He’s an attaché with the US Embassy in Paris during the 1950s, and their relationship is a complete love match.
The current-day Julie Powell is covered by Amy Adams, the star of Enchanted, and who also worked with Streep in last year’s Doubt. She is quite charming as Powell, although seems as if she just too good to be true.
But the script by director Ephron, using both Powell’s book about her project, and Child’s biography, is sparkling with great dialogue and peripheral characters. Ephron brings both main characters to life, so that you will leave the theatre wanting to know more…always a good sign of a successful film.
And naturally, since Julia Child is the more famous of the two, it’s much more satisfying to learn about this astounding woman, and the driving forces in her life. She loved her husband and her passion for cooking, and you’ll be amazed to discover Child's funny and earthy sides.
The music by French composer Alexandre Desplat, who was Oscar nominated for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, is most appropriate. He is fast becoming one of the best of the young film composers working today. Jane Lynch shines in her brief appearance as Child’s sister Dorothy. And it’s nicely captured on film by cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt, who makes the scenes in 1950s Paris especially appealing.
While not a perfect film, Julie and Julia has enough ingredients to make this a tasty cinematic soufflé. However… don’t go hungry, and try not to see it in the same day as Food, Inc..