Cooking Up a Good Movie
Mary Claire O'Donnell | Thursday, September 10, 2009
3 cups Julie Powell
1.5 cups Julia Child
4 tablespoons hilarity
3 teaspoons obstacles to success
3 teaspoons drama/angst
1 teaspoon success
Production time: a few months
Best served: over a two-hour period
It’s often hard to find a good summer movie sorting through such bombs as “Fast and Furious” and “GI Joe: Rise of Cobra.” However, the culinary comedy “Julie & Julia” is a refreshing exception. Is it not fitting that food, a source of comfort for many people, should bring such delight in the form of a movie?
“Julie and Julia” intertwines the lives of Julie Powell (Amy Adams), an almost 30-year-old living in Queens, and Julia Child (Meryl Streep), a 40-something living in Paris, as both try to find meaning in their changing lives. The two women, worlds apart, each find themselves stuck while those around them succeed and advance in their careers.
Julie, a cubicle worker, fields calls from survivors and families of victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. As Julie flounders, feeling lost, her one solace is cooking and food. And so, she decides to cook her way through Julia Child’s revolutionary cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” all while blogging about it.
The intermittent scenes of Julia Child’s life portray her early years in Paris and her struggles to fit in. Large and outspoken, she is at odds with the typical Parisian women. She ends up in the all male Cordon Bleu Cooking School for professional chefs. Nothing can hold her back, though, not even an ornery dean, as she cooks her way to the top of her class. Eventually, she meets Simone Beck (Linda Emond) and Louisette Bertholle (Helen Carey), the women with whom she will write her cookbook, at a party, and they embark on their journey from there.
The journeys of Julie and Julia, however, are not without obstacles. Powell finds herself in a tiny kitchen with three recipes to complete every two days, while Child and her friends face unreceptive publishers and trans-European moves. The two women employ different attitudes in overcoming their own stumbling blocks. With her boisterous, upbeat personality, Child’s method is more endearing. Regrettably, though, Powell’s self-absorption, a common side effect of blogging, receives more screen time.
Meryl Streep shines in this movie. She nails the extremely distinctive voice of Child, causing no doubt as to why she has been nominated for 15 Oscars. An appropriate mannerism or personality quirk accompanies every perfectly delivered line, making the character come alive in the minds of the audience. Adams’s performance also deserves praise, but unfortunately, Streep overshadows her. It also does not help that Adams’s character is the less appealing of the two. Furthermore, it is a pity that the plot only allowed for the inclusion of one scene from Julia Child’s amusing and informing television cooking shows.
Overall, the movie ends happily for both characters as each find their place in their respective worlds, resulting in an enjoyable two hours. One suggestion, though, for the interested viewer: do not watch this on an empty stomach. While in the theater, you will invariably be overcome with incredible hunger pangs, but these will be easier to bear on a full stomach or with the promise of food following the movie.
Overemphasis on Julie leaves a sour taste in the mouth
Bitter taste easily overcome with extra doses of Julia
Refreshing mix of drama and humor
Perfect for an evening in with friends
Best served with food