Movie Review: ‘Julie and Julia’

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Julie and Julia Review

Amy Adams in ‘Julie and Julia (Photo © Columbia Pictures)

Hitting theaters near the end of a summer movie season filled with explosions, over-the-top action and general silliness, Julie and Julia is a delightful, tasty treat for adults. Julie and Julia is cooked to cinematic perfection and filled with terrific performances from the entire ensemble cast, led by Doubt co-stars Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. The story – like the delicious food served in Julie and Julia – will satiate moviegoers looking to fill up on a full-bodied film for their box office dollars.

Julie and Julia, though based on two true stories, plays out as a tale almost too good to be true. Julia, as played by Streep, is so completely engaging and so loved by all who come in contact with her that she seems like the creation of a very imaginative mind rather than a flesh and blood women. Julie, on the other hand, is a timid, can’t accomplish anything young woman who, with the help of a famous chef she’s never met yet leans on daily, blossoms into a determined, self-reliant woman. What Julie learns from studying Julia takes her from handling phone calls from relatives of victims of 9/11 to juggling interview opportunities and book deals. It would seem the story of Julia and Julie’s strangely intertwined lives could only spring from a screenwriter’s pen, but Julie and Julia is based on the real lives of these two captivating women.

The Story:

Julie and Julia is culled from two books. One book tells the story of Julia Child as she transitions from the bored wife of a diplomat stationed in France to student at the famed Le Cordon Bleu school to cooking teacher and ultimately cookbook author and star of her own TV show. The second book was written by New Yorker Julie Powell, a cubicle-dwelling government worker who, back in 2002, decided to stir things up in her life by cooking all 500+ recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking over the course of just 365 days. And in addition to tackling Child’s recipes, Julie charged herself with creating and updating a blog based on her daily adventures in the kitchen. Julie had a history of not completing things, but was determined to see this year-long experiment through to the end. Fortunately, she had an understanding, level-headed husband on her side to steady her when the going got rough (i.e. when she had to kill lobsters, poach eggs, and perform other hazardous duties) and a strength of spirit she didn’t know existed until she followed Julia’s lead.

The Cast:

Although Powell’s book dwells, as expected, more on her own portion of the story, the film divides its time fairly equally between Julia’s story and Julie’s. Meryl Streep plays Julia as a gigantic woman with a real gusto for life, showing her to be as passionate about eating and cooking as she is about her loving husband, Paul (Stanley Tucci). It’s a joy (not of cooking but of watching) to see The Devil Wears Prada‘s Streep and Tucci reunite onscreen as a happily married couple who absolute adore the ground the other walks on.

Amy Adams has a tougher row to hoe playing a struggling woman trying to find herself in a world that doesn’t care in the least if she succeeds. Even at lunch with her closest female friends, Adams as Julie is put down, her life brushed off as trivial. But as Julie sees her universe expanding as the number of readers commenting on her blog increases, Adams takes Julie from shrinking violet to a strong woman in her own right. And if you’re like me, you’re going to walk out of Julie and Julia wondering who Chris Messina is and where he’s been hiding. As Julie’s husband, Eric, Messina is a revelation.


The Bottom Line:

Julie and Julia isn’t just a movie for foodies, although I’ll warn you now not to go to this movie on an empty stomach. Restaurants immediately adjacent to theaters screening Julie and Julia are likely to see an uptick in business from people driven crazy by the mouth-watering dishes on display in Julie and Julia. And if you don’t know how to cook…well, I need to stop for a moment to let you know where I’m coming from in the culinary skills department. I once ruined a skillet attempting to cook a grilled cheese sandwich. The result was an inedible disaster and a pan that looked like someone had held it under a space shuttle as it was taking off. That was a few years back and I’m better now, but I’m still far from feeling comfortable around the kitchen. If it’s microwaveable, I’m all good. Anyway, Julie and Julia made me want to rush out and whip up a souffle or some exotic beef dish. It also made me long for more films of this ilk, movies that don’t need tricks, gimmicks or special effects to compete in theaters.

It’s so refreshing to see strong female characters drive a story. Streep and Adams don’t share a single scene in Julie and Julia, but they do share the ability to engage the audience. Together though separate, these powerful actresses make Julie and Julia a scrumptious moviegoing experience.

GRADE: B+

Julie and Julia was directed by Nora Ephron and is rated PG-13 for brief strong language and some sensuality.

Theatrical Release Date: August 7, 2009

-By Rebecca Murray

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