Julie & Julia Serves Up a Delicious Comedic Diversion
- Friday, August 07, 2009
DVD Release Date: December 8, 2009
Theatrical Release Date: August 7, 2009
Rating: PG-13 (for brief strong language and some sensuality)
Genre: Comedy, Biography
Run Time: 123 min.
Director: Nora Ephron
Actors: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina, Linda Emond, Helen Carey, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Jane Lynch
From her first bite of browned sole meunière swimming in a sumptuous butter sauce, Julia Child fell in love with French cuisine. And thanks to yet another incredible performance from Meryl Streep as the larger-than-life chef (she was 6'2) who was never seen without her signature pearls or heard without her signature "bon appétit" sign-off, a new generation of foodies will inevitably fall in love with Julia's recipes and fascinating life story.
In fact, that's exactly what Julie Powell did (the real-life Julie referenced in the movie's title, portrayed by Amy Adams). Stuck in a cramped cubical more than eight hours a day, answering phone calls from the family members of 9/11 victims, Julie is on the cusp of turning 30 and realizes she's started way too many projects that she's never finished. A writer at heart, she abandoned her half-finished novel long ago and needs something—anything—that'll help her feel fulfilled.
Really the only joy that Julie has, aside from the loving companionship of her husband Eric (Chris Messina), is deciding what to make for dinner. In stark contrast to the snotty friends she has "cobb salad lunch" with, she isn't interested in merely climbing the corporate ladder. But what can she do of significance when so much of her day is sucked up by what feels like a dead-end job?
Then while enjoying a simple supper of pan-fried bruschetta, the only Italian food getting screen time in the flick, Eric gets an idea that may help Julie out of her rut. Perhaps, she should blog … a far more immediate way of getting published.
Initially feeling like the forum may be a little too self indulgent for her taste, Eric and Julie continue to brainstorm until they come up with the perfect focus for her work. Since Julie finds her sanctuary in whipping up tasty meals, Eric suggests that she could make all 524 recipes from Julia Child's iconic cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking and write about her experiences.
Then as Julie enthusiastically dives into what she eventually christens the "Julie/Julia" project with a good mix of successes and failures, the audience gets a parallel glimpse into the life of the woman Julie is actually writing about.
Of the two inspired-by-a-true-story plotlines, Julia's is definitely more intriguing. After moving to Paris with her husband Paul (Stanley Tucci), who has accepted a new work assignment, Julia promptly decides she needs a new hobby. But when hat-making and bridge don't really work out, Julia decides to enroll in Le Cordon Bleu culinary school. After all, she loooves food, so why not put that passion to good use?
Clearly a boys' club, Julia is determined to succeed in French cooking, even if she is the only woman—and an American to boot. Tackling each new challenge with joyful abandon, Streep never falls into parody with the role. Instead, she embraces—and embodies—every one of Julia's plucky mannerisms and is such a delight to watch, whether she's skillfully chopping a mountain-full of onions in her off hours (only one of the movie's great comedic moments) or rubbing down a chicken with enough butter to ensure perfect roasting.
In addition to fantastic acting from all the leads, skillful direction and a winning screenplay from Nora Ephron (When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle) help seal the movie's winsome appeal. The flick has an almost throwback quality about it, relying on sharp, snappy dialogue rather than contrived CGI stunts.
Also a refreshing change of pace is that healthy, functional marriages actually get some good press. Instead of the superficial love of many romantic comedies or the life-stinks-when-you-get-married shtick that's served up in so many comedies, both Julie's and Julia's relationships with their husbands are rock solid and authentic. We see both of these couples endure the ups and downs of sharing life together, all with an underlying sense of support for each other's dreams.
Adding further gravitas to what could've been a script as light and airy as the perfect soufflé, Ephron also isn't afraid to tackle weightier topics. Whether it's the sense of failure that Julia feels when her cookbook is initially rejected or the tears she sheds when she receives word that her sister is expecting a baby (she isn't able to have children), these moments pack a real and unexpected emotional punch. However, what ultimately takes the proverbial cake in Julie & Julia is the inherent charms of Julia herself—and all that glorious French food. Be forewarned: You'll likely leave the theater very, very hungry—and craving something with lots and lots of butter.
- Drugs/Alcohol: Social drinking (mostly involving wine with dinner) and cigarette smoking.
- Language/Profanity: Profanity is used on occasion, plus one use of the "f" word.
- Sex/Nudity: The only sex in this movie involves married couples. There's no nudity and little shown beyond foreplay.
- Violence: Only of a comedic nature.
Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in St. Paul, Minn., she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog.
For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.
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