Julie & Julia is a very good movie. There are two parallel storylines: One is the story of Julia Child, the renowned chef, and the other is of Julie Powell (played by Amy Adams), a government cubicle worker who decides that the best way to get herself out of her doldrums will be to prepare every recipe in Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. She gives herself a year to complete this and writes a blog to chronicle her progress. We see Julia Child, played pretty exquisitely by Meryl Streep, as her cooking career begins and while she is living in post-war Paris with her husband, diplomat Paul Child (played perfectly by Stanley Tucci). Meryl’s performance is mostly comedic, and she serves up another example of her ability to embody a vast range of characters, including Julia Child, in a most satisfying way. The movie switches back and forth between Julia in Paris and Julie in present-time Queens, New York. Julie is married to Eric, played by Chris Messina. Their marriage has some conflict and is, at times, a counterpoint to the idyllic union of Julia and Paul.
Some critics have complained that the “Julie” part of the movie wasn’t as strong as the “Julia” story, but apart from the distraction of Eric’s annoyingly loud eating, I thought their story was beefy enough to hold the viewer’s interest. Amy Adams continues to grab and keep my attention, first with Junebug, recently with Doubt and Sunshine Cleaning, and now with Julie & Julia. I see her merging more and more completely with each of her characters. Chris Messina had a great turn a couple of years ago as Ira in Ira and Abby, which I highly recommend to anyone looking for a good New York relationship comedy. And in Julie & Julia he contributes more than just eating with his mouth open; he does his part to portray both the love and tension in their marriage.
Nora Ephron wrote the screenplay for Julie & Julia adapted from the two books “Julie and Julia”, by the real Julie Powell, and “My Life In France”, by Julia Child. Ephron also directs. The direction is fine, but the performances by Streep and Tucci are so seamless and natural, one wonders if she could simply nudge and murmur here and there, and still get the job done.
The stories unfold in alternating fashion. Julie’s life is greatly affected by her connection with Julia and her cooking, but they don’t share screen time together. Abiding by my strict rule of not reading any reviews prior to seeing a movie, I had guessed that we would see an actual Julie-Julia relationship, but this was not the case. So for me, these stories remained separate, and the film didn’t totally come together as a cohesive whole. This was a bit of a disappointment, as were the bland and anti-climactic endings to each of the stories. These were the deficits for me that distinguished it from a really great movie, and I kind of blame Nora Ephron’s screenplay for not elevating this film to its highest potential. But I still really enjoyed it.
If you like these actors, see this movie. If you like a good comedy, see this movie. If you’re interested in the story of an iconic figure like Julia Child, see this movie. And if you like cooking, see this movie. Even if you just like eating, this movie is a good bet for a wide range of tastes. – [DVD]
DVD Release Date: 12/08/09