The Popcorn Reel                                                                               
 Friday, August 7, 2009

Julie & Julia

Wanted: An Inspiration.  Found: A Love Affair With Food.

Meryl Streep hits the funny stratosphere as American cooking icon Julia Child in Nora Ephron's "Julie & Julia", which opened today in the U.S. and Canada.  The film also stars Amy Adams as Julie Powell.  (Photo: Sony Pictures)

By Omar P.L. Moore/      SHARE
Friday, August 7, 2009

A sexy, saucy romantic comedy cooked with all the ingredients of love.  "Julie & Julia" is a delicious dish of fun, food and frolic.

And one could stop right there in describing Nora Ephron's latest film, an entertaining spectacle thanks largely to Meryl Streep, who portrays cooking icon Julia Child.  The stories of Ms. Child and Julie Powell, a frustrated and dispirited being living in Long Island City in Queens, N.Y. in 2002 are also a good reason for a totally immersive experience in this, Ms. Ephron's finest film.  Parallel story tracts uneasily but steadily link these two beings together, as 1940s and 50s France seems never far away from this new century's New York City post 9-11-01. 

And food is never far away from either.  Julie Powell (Amy Adams) lives with her husband (Chris Messina) on top of a pizzeria as Julie struggles to make something of her increasingly drab life.  Cooking will be the way, she decides, thanks to Ms. Child's landmark tome Mastering The Art of French Cooking.  Julie embarks on an ambitious undertaking: 524 recipes from the book will be cooked in 365 days, and she starts an online blog to keep herself honest.  For Julia Child, it's the food of love and the boning of many a duck that keeps her busy, and Ms. Streep portrays her as a bawdy, joyful and amorous sort, with the supplicant affectations that Ms. Child would surely have loved (she passed away in 2002).  Ms. Adams plays Ms. Powell with friskiness, punch and gusto, echoing the frustration and hardship of setting what surely appears an unattainable goal.  Ms. Adams, who starred with Ms. Streep in last year's multi-Oscar-nominated film "Doubt", no doubt has a knack for being in decent films, two of them this year: "Sunshine Cleaning", and now this very good effort, which owes a little to "Sex And The City" in some ways, with or without the food of love.
Stanley Tucci, Streep's co-star in "The Devil Wears Prada" plays Paul Child, Julia's husband, and does particularly well in the role.  Their chemistry is so very good as are the remainder of the impressive cast: stage thespian Linda Emond is an unsung heroine in her role, displaying her consistently outstanding talents, and Jane Lynch has a small but sweet role as Julia's sister.  Most of all, "Julie & Julia", marred ever so slightly by a Saturday Night Live parody that is bloody to an uncomfortable extreme, is a consistently engaging work.  Food, an obvious character given the subject matter, is a constant theme in "Julie & Julia", reigniting stagnating relationships, bolstering confidence and self-satisfying its ingesting parties wherever possible.

Based on Ms. Powell's book Julie & Julia and Ms. Child's book My Life In France, with Alex Prud'homme, Ms. Ephron's screenplay cleverly melds what could have easily have been an awkward continuum between these two women, who never met.  The ultimate point is that inspiration and a measure of satisfaction comes to all of us, whether we've never cooked a meal before or are constantly seeking perfection and a certain crème de la crème -- which Ms. Child achieved and her genius onscreen inhabitant here continues to.  Ms. Streep's phenomenal mastery of acting and affecting only gets better, even after all these years.

"Julie & Julia" is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association Of America for brief strong language and some sensuality.  The film's running time is two hours and three minutes.

Copyright 2009.  Omar P.L. Moore.  The Popcorn Reel.  All Rights Reserved.