Side Note: Check out the next Julie Powell of Chicago cuisine, my friend Stephanie, and her blog “Stephanie Eats Chicago.” She was featured on WGN Radio this morning, plus if you click you might find pictures of puppies amidst her food-pegs.
“Julie & Julia” is not about food so much as it is about setting goals and creating opportunities for personal achievement. In this way, famous television chef Julia Child (Meryl Streep) and foodie blogger Julie Powell (Amy Adams) have more in common than a passion for cooking. Acclaimed romantic comedy filmmaker Nora Ephron juxtaposes both womens’ stories to illustrate this in her film and though it’s a conclusion that doesn’t require two long hours to cook, the life-like ups and downs and feel good moments of “Julie & Julia” make it an affecting and personable film.
Thriving on the performances of Adams and even more so Streep, Ephron’s vision to interweave two equally interesting story lines works despite the extra minutes consequently tacked on. Objectively, this is Julie Powell’s story as without her the story of Julia Child is irrelevant in this film, but Child is a compelling figure and Streep playing her makes it even more so.
Powell is a recently married woman with a desk job who gets the idea to start a blog about cooking, specifically trying to cook more than 500 of Julia Child’s recipes from her famous book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” all in just one year. Ephron then takes pieces from Child’s aforementioned tome and tells the story of how she came to be a cooking expert and publish what eventually became that book. Ephron tames these equally magnetic stories, splicing them at great commercial break cliffhanger moments to keep our attention.
I personally found the Julie story a bit more dynamic and interesting. There’s some bias there as I’m also a blogger trying to establish myself as a writer, but I think anyone who feels or has ever felt bogged down by a job that they’re not passionate about who needs to own something and find something to succeed at whether as a hobby or something more will find interest and certainly some comfort in Powell’s story.
On the other side of the coin is Streep’s performance and Julia’s relationship with her husband, Paul (Stanley Tucci). It’s certainly not your average on-screen romance, but “Julie & Julia” is all the better for it. Finally a film where love does not factor in as much with the plot. Both these women were inspired or supported by their husbands and their relationships were an integral part of their success in this way. Streep and Tucci have a playful and adorable chemistry. They have fun together — they’re partners — and that’s all too often lost in cinematic romance.
Streep as Julia, however, is the focal point of that whole side to the story. It’s very much Streep being Julia more so than Julia. You notice that same sense of humor we’ve seen more recently from her in films such as “Mamma Mia!” but she takes it to Julia’s level. It feels very natural yet it’s also a complex portrayal. You can feel her fear and her fearlessness alike in Streep’s performance and the way she responds to life in general including its challenges.
“Julie & Julia” is foremost a story of how when passion and dedication meet, wonderful things happen because no adversity lasts for long in the face of that combination. These women found their passion in cooking and stayed dedicated because of their personal relationships and both found lasting fulfillment from it.
Julie & Julia
Directed by: Nora Ephron
Written by: Nora Ephron, Julie Powell (book), Julia Child (Book “My Life in France”)
Starring: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina