Review of Julie & Julia


Movie Review: "Julie and Julia"

-- Rating: PG-13 (some sensuality, brief strong language)

Length: 123 minutes

Release Date: August 7, 2009

Directed by: Nora Ephron

Genre: Biography/Drama/Romance

Meryl Streep is widely known for not only her ability to wholeheartedly embody characters based on real people but also for her perfect accents. She displays both abilities with fervor in "Julie and Julia," a movie based on the book by Julie Powell.

Streep plays renowned American chef Julia Child, who is married to Paul (Stanley Tucci), a diplomat. In the 1940s, he was stationed in France, so Julia moved to Paris with him and quickly fell in love with the cuisine. Over a plate of buttery sole meunière, she realizes that cooking and eating don't have to be just for the nourishment of the body. Food and cooking can also nourish the soul.

The film cuts between Julia's adventures in France and the life of Julie Powell (Amy Adams), a somewhat frustrated secretary in New York City who is about to relocate to Queens with her husband Eric (Chris Messina). Julie has a love of cooking but doesn't immediately realize that she could use it to escape her day job as an insurance company hack who answers calls about medical benefits for victims of the 9/11 attacks. Because the movie is set in 2002, the attacks are still fresh in the minds of all New Yorkers, and Julie is near tears when she can't find a way to approve medical care for some of the first responders.

She then goes on to read about various people who are using blogging as a tool to create the lives they want. They gather a following, get donations and sponsorships, and are able to quit their day jobs with the profit. When Julie and Eric sit down to watch a rerun of "The French Chef," Julia's iconic cooking show, she puts two and two together. She will cook all 524 recipes from Julia's definitive tome, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," in just 1 year. She makes plans to blog about the experience and see if she can make a career out of it, if she doesn't lose her mind first.

Meanwhile, the focus shifts back to France, where Julia is enrolled in an elite French culinary school. The instructors do not look pleased about having a woman in their classes, which genuinely hurts Julia's feelings. It also serves to make her more determined than ever to prove them wrong. She practices at home, where her beloved Paul silently watches as she obsesses over her knife skills. Their relationship is portrayed as being almost euphoric, so of course, he says nothing when she chops onions for hours at a time for practice. He just wants her to be happy, and happy is what she becomes when she passes every exam at her school with flying colors.

Julia is so enamored with French cooking that she decides to write a book. She feels that anyone, even Americans, who were not know for their culinary prowess at the time, can learn French cooking. Writer Nora Ephron, who also directed the film, shows the long and painstaking process that Julia went through to get her masterpiece written. She was met with rejection after rejection, which would have broken the spirit of most people. Luckily for the world, Julia was not most people, and she persevered until the book was finally published in 1961.

The script points out just how perilously close Julia came to never getting her book published, which would have meant no "The French Chef" cooking show, either. That also would have meant no year-long blog for Julie, who watches as her sanity and marriage both nearly collapse under the enormous weight of what she is trying to accomplish. As the action goes back and forth between the two women, you realize that this whole story almost didn't happen.

"Julie and Julia" marks the final writing and directing effort from Ephron, who died in 2012. It is a fitting last hurrah for the scribe, who helped establish the modern romantic comedy and helped make Meg Ryan a superstar of the genre. She manages to cross two completely different women who have nothing in common and live in two separate worlds. It takes a deft hand to make that work, and Ephron does it with style.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars