Friday, August 7, 2009

Julie and Julia Film Review

I'll have to admit that I like cooking. To me it's an art. Enjoying good food is universal and making it to please individuals is no different than pleasing an audience with your singing. That's one reason I looked forward to seeing Director and writer Nora Ephron's Julie & Julia. The film is based on two real life women, Julia Child and Julia Powell. Ephron developed her script on Julia Child's "My Life In France" and Julie Powell's "Julie and Julia." And I am happy to say it is a delightful comedy-drama. The film is like a well cooked meal, you won't go away hungry. It certainly would be a great twin bill with Pixar's Ratatouille.

Julie Powell is played Amy Adams. Her day job is to receive calls from the Lower Manhattan Development Project which dealt with the reconstruction lower Manhattan after the 9-11 attacks. Frustrated by her career, and envious of her more successful friends, she looks for direction in her life. She decides to cook every recipe in Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" for a year and blog about it. Julia Child is played by Meryl Streep. She's married to a Paul (Stanley Tucci), former OSS agent and a diplomat stationed in post war Paris, France. She also looks for direction in her life. Though, Child herself worked for the OSS, she's bored until she enrolls in the prestigious French cooking school Le Cordon Bleau.

Child throws herself into the challenge of cooking French cuisine even though she's looked down upon by the male dominated profession and the school's uptight administrator. With talent, good humor and energy, she masters the art of French cooking. Later, she embarks on the task of writing a book about French cooking that would take her years to achieve. Meryl Streep does more than just an imitation of Child's high pitched voice. She gives Child wit, warmth and energy.

Powell, has an equally difficult task. First, she must overcome the post 9-11 malaise especially since she must hear from victims. Then she must not let her narcissistic impulses derail her task and marriage at the same time. Amy Adams gives a wonderful performance that demonstrates Powell's vulnerabilities.

Director Nora Ephron's films can get cloyed with sentimentality. See Sleepless in Seattle. But her writing on When Harry Met Sally looked at men and women relationships without the over the top romantic flourishes. It demonstrates she can write more realistically and in that movie reach classic heights. In Julie & Julia, she curbs her sentimental impulses say for one musical cue featuring a soft rock song where the singer telegraphs Adams' emotions after a fight with her husband. But overall, her toned down approach works. The film is warm and vibrant. It has the same common appeal of enjoying a great meal.

One test for a great movie is whether the viewer wishes to see it again. After sharing the two womens' journeys, I would love to order this dish again. The grade is "A."

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