Instead of staying in for our monthly girls’ movie nite, we opted to see this movie at the theater. Truthfully, I don’t know what to expect as this isn’t usually the type of flick I get excited about, but it was actually pretty good.
I knew nothing about who Julia Child is, other than she was the pioneer female TV chef long before Martha Stewart or Rachael Ray came into being. Based on a true story of two memoirs Julie & Julia by Julie Powell and My Life in France by Julia Child, the two lives are somehow intertwined despite time and space. Julia is an endearingly boisterous wife of a diplomat husband who is stationed in Paris in pre-WW II era. She pretty much came into cooking out boredom and simply wanting something to do with her life. After being bored out of her wits in hat-making and bridge classes, she enrolled herself in the prestigious Cordon Bleu cooking school, despite being scoffed at by her snooty French school director.
Meanwhile, Julie Powell is also looking for something new in her life, she too is unsatisfied with her dead-end insurance job and feels that she needs to finish something in her life. On the way home from work, she suddenly has an epiphany to try out all 534 recipes from Child’s first best-selling book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year, and with her husband’s encouragement, blog about the experience. There is a of scene that really resonated with me as a blogger, which is when she exclaimed to her colleague, ‘I have a comment,’ which is truly an exhilarating feeling when you’re a novice blogger.
Writer/director Nora Ephron is no stranger to movies about parallel lives, as she did in Sleepless in Seattle (which is one of the very few rom-coms I like). Other than the recipe book, there is actually very little substance that ties the two lives’ together. However, Ephron uses their common bond of the love of food, as well as both women’s loving husbands to elevate it. She also did a pretty good job weaving the scenes between the two very-different lives back and forth, as they never feel jarring or out of place. There are funny spots from both leads throughout that keep it entertaining, notably Julia’s onion-chopping scene and Julie’s attempt to cook lobsters without killing ’em first. But the biggest laugh comes from a real SNL footage of Dan Aykroyd impersonating the real Julia Child, which also shows you even more how much Streep embodies her character.
Although Amy Adams is great playing a plain jane here (after the larger than life role in Enchanted), it’s Streep who is the crème de la crème of the movie. She is so charismatic and delightful as her Julia impersonations is perfect down to her high-pitched voice and mannerism, without resorting to caricature. She also appears believably tall (Child was 6’2″ and Streep is 5’6″) by the use of platform shoes and camera tricks. Character actor Stanley Tucci provides a perfect balance as Julia’s supportive husband, as do Chris Messina as Julie’s.
If I could pick on a couple of things though, the pace seems rather slow at times and drags on a good 15-20 minutes too long. The ending also feels a bit undone and lacks a real emotional punch. But overall it’s worth seeing even just to see Meryl’s outstanding performance. I even came away with a lesson as a blogger, something I totally didn’t expect from this movie, which is not to take our real life for granted even if we have another ‘life’ outside of that, in this case my blog. Ultimately, family should always comes first, just like Julia never let her cooking take over her marriage and the way she treats her adoring husband.
Julie & Julia is more than just a cooking movie, although if you come in hungry, it’ll be torture watching all those decadent dishes and dessert. This is also a charming and heartwarming movie about relationship and a celebration of friendship.