My Compliments to the Chef!: Review of “Julie & Julia”

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Julia Child is a giant and how they could get a 5’6” actress to play a 6’2” icon doesn’t really surprise me. Not, at least, when it’s Meryl Streep in the role as the warbley chef. Julie & Julia is based on Julia Child’s autobiography published in 2005, My Life in Paris, and Julie Powell’s memoir Julie & Julia: 524 Recipes, 365 Days, 1 Tiny Apartment. To say the least, this movie is food porn. Succulent beouf bourgeoning and delicious almond-chocolate cakes are on screen for a good part of the film. But enough about walking out of the theater starving let us move on to the film itself.

Julie Powell is a 29 year-old cubicle worker dealing with the post 9/11 aftermath of thousands of sobbing bereaved individuals. Her life is going nowhere fast. She worked as an editor at a magazine, wrote half a novel, and has a mother in Texas constantly reminding her of how short her shortcomings have been. Jealous of her rich and successful “friends” (I say this in parentheses because she really hates them), she has sort of an epiphany. She decides that she will write a blog and go through Julia Child’s world famous cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, the first French cookbook to be published in English.

On the other side of the film, Julia Child and her husband, Paul (Stanley Tucci, so excellent from The Devil Wears Prada) are stationed in Paris by the OSS (yes, the master of French cooking was a spy…sort of). Bored of having nothing to do, she tries taking up various hobbies, from making hats to joining a Bridge club; she finally decides to go with her passion of French food, only recently discovered, and takes classes at the internationally renowned Le Cordon Bleu. At first, she has a little trouble in a class full of men. But she then begins to master cooking, chopping a mound of onions, as if one had ticked her off and she had vowed revenge on all of them. She begins to make friends with the future collaborators of her famous book.

Amy Adams as Julie Powell is quite a choice. Thus far, she has not made a mistake in her roles, from Junebug to Enchanted, to more dramatic roles in Doubt and Sunshine Cleaning. She is quite excellent in the film. Her character, however, is extremely whiny and narcissistic. She checks her blog for comments-every hour. Her relationship with her supportive husband dissolves throughout several scenes. But her exuberance for her passion is enlightening.

Meryl Streep is perfect as always, perfecting Child’s exaggerated…uh, accent. She is an amazing actress who can transform into anyone. Anna Wintour (The Devil Wears Prada). An angry wife (Heartburn, Kramer vs. Kramer). She is the epitome of an actress and will remain so for a very long time,

The film, directed and written by Nora Ephron, is an extremely enjoyable meal. We know she can give us a good love story, like her films Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail and When Harry Met Sally… But this film isn’t a traditional love story. It’s about two people in love with food.  Cutting back from main character to main character, each scene is a compliment to the other. If one is moving to a new apartment in Queens (Julie), the other is moving into a new apartment in Paris (Julia). If one is learning how to cook properly (Julia), one is learning how to be patient and kill a lobster (Julie). Such a reflective style can get confusing in a different film (prime example: La Vie en Rose), but the breathless and easy way of the film transports you with no turbulence. A highly enjoyable experience, I highly recommend the film! Just don’t go on an empty stomach.

Grade: A-

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