Julie and Julia (2009) Revisit Review
"Julie and Julia" will satisfy a food lovers visual appetite and perhaps trigger his appetite while satisfying a cinephiles need for a visual story light of intellectual heft but refreshingly entertaining.
Based on the book by Julie Powell it tells the story of how Julie was able to balance her stressful job of helping those affected immediately after the events of 9/11 by initiating a mission to cook every recipe in Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." Along side her story, the director Nora Ephron, takes us on a parallel journey with Ms. Child as she navigates life in Paris as a diplomat's wife attempting to discover what will be her life's work.
The drama of "Julie and Julia" lay with Julie (Amy Adams) as she desperately tries to find a release from her professional world that's filled with anger, heartache, desperation and fear. Julie is absorbing too much of it. Her one enjoyment is cooking. When her boyfriend (Chris Messina- someone totally underused in the industry) introduces her to something called blogging she attempts to release the turmoil by challenging herself to cook all the ingredients in Julia Child's legendary cookbook while writing about it publicly. Ms. Ephron does a nice job showing us Julie's evolution as a cook. She runs into disasters and failures but keeps moving ahead steadily, increasing our investment in the character and even feeling the relief she does when she succeeds. Julie records even the calamities which, probably, is one of the reasons her blog became so endearing.
Revisiting this film I had forgotten Amy Adams was in it. She carries this picture since all of the drama lays with her story. And it's a pleasure to watch. The mark of an actor well versed in their craft is to take the viewer by the hand and immerse them in the character's journey. Ms. Adams and Mr. Messina are a delicious pair to watch and enliven the drama through the struggles.
Julia Child is played by the legendary Meryl Streep. Ms. Streep is at a disadvantage since she's playing a real life character who has a distinct intonation that is quite annoying. It takes some time to settle into the performance but when we do Ms. Child's life begins to reverberate. Sharing her life is her husband, Paul Child played by one of the great character actors of our time, Stanley Tucci. Mr. Tucci has shown he can be plopped down in any film and mold effortlessly into his characters. Together, Ms. Streep and Mr. Tucci float along through a story whose importance doesn't take hold since their outcome is already well known. Ms. Ephron throws some drama into the mix through some not too subtle hints that they cannot bear children and that Mr. Child was swept up in the anticommunism fervor sweeping through the country at the time. These moments do add some curves to Ms. Child's road toward writing her book. The lack of children in the Child's lives is an interesting note since who knows if we would have had the innovative cook book that altered America's culinary landscape if the couple had children. The Child's story does move without much bumps but that does give the viewer a respite from the drama of Ms. Adams narrative.
The stakes aren't high in "Julie and Julia" since the outcome is a forgone conclusion but it is an entertaining journey to watch. Their are some solid performances from professionals at the back end of their careers that move flawlessly with talent at the beginning of theirs. Its a visit worth making unlike the one Ms. Child refused to attempt to do with Julie.