After months of botched attempts, I finally saw a new movie that I truly, thoroughly enjoyed. Julie & Julia, the juxtaposed tales of struggling writer Julie Powell and the just plain struggling Julia Child, is a controlled exercise in overindulgence, much like Mrs. Child’s cooking. There’s just the right amount of too much of everything here: the gorgeous locations of Julia’s Paris, the impeccable period costuming, the shrewd and tightly-laced script by director Nora Ephron, and the outstanding performances from the entire cast, led by an instantly lovable Meryl Streep as the famed chef.
Going into the film, I had read many reviews which called for “less Julie, more Julia”. I have to say that, with the exception of one plot development (a marital spat that seemed unnecessarily severe), the story of Julie Powell was not nearly the bore I had been led to believe. Granted, she is nowhere near as recognizable or sympathetic as the woman who inspires and obsesses her, and the problems of a contemporary thirty-something in Manhattan seem to pale to those faced by a forty-something woman living beyond borders at a time when women were still expected to be happy housewives and nothing more; but I thought Julie Powell as played by Amy Adams perfectly portrayed the uncertainty and angst of one’s more formative years as an adult, trying to not only have but also enjoy it all, in a time when it seems hard to make not only an impact, but a difference. She was a fully drawn, complex, and even contradictory character–even if she did strike me as a slightly younger Miranda Hobbes from Sex and the City, straight down to the haircut, attitude, and syntax. Yet the most important thing about Adams’ performance is that she expertly conveys the character’s love and adoration for Julia Child, and thus leads us into each new part of Julia’s story feeling the same way.
As Julia Child, Meryl Streep is just freakin’ fantastic. Julia Child is an easy person to parody (many have, many will), but Streep takes her nearly constant state of giddy awe and happy optimism (which is a nice way of saying her natural goofiness) and even her warbling gobble of a voice and makes them infectiously adorable. She makes you smile simply by being on screen. Julia Child’s story is a truly impressive one, and it took someone like Streep to do it such effortless justice.
The supporting cast of Julie & Julia is the perfect compliment to these two main dishes. Chris Messina and Stanley Tucci play the husbands of Julie and Julia, respectively. Messina, a poor man’s Mark Ruffalo, held his own opposite the far more showy Adams, and Tucci hardly appears to be acting as Julia’s eternally doting and admiring husband, Paul. Mary Lynn Rajskub steals scenes from Adams and Messina as Julie’s droll, blunt best friend, Sarah. Jane Lynch performs similar acts of theft on Streep and Tucci as Julia’s sister, Dorothy, a giant ostrich of a woman who takes a memorable trip to Paris.
The other star of the movie is, as you may imagine, the food. Do not go to this movie hungry. It is total food porn. Watching Julie slave away in various montages, trying to replicate each of Julia’s legendary recipes, is enough to make you drool.
The best thing about Julie & Julia, though, is that it inspired me to keep after the respective passions of the two titular characters: cooking and blogging. Just this evening, I made some very thick salmon filets with roasted red potatoes and asparagus, all slathered in what I’m sure was an unhealthy but very tasty mayonnaise-based sauce. As for the blogging, I aim to be more prompt with my posts from this point onward.
As the big JC herself would say, “Bon apetit!”