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Molli Reviews: Julie & Julia

August 12, 2009

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Nora Ephron’s “Julie & Julia” is hands-down one of the most delightful films I have seen in a very long time. From start to finish, it is sweet, funny, and as impeccably well-crafted as one of Julia Child’s meals…I never wanted it to end.

Based on both Child’s autobiography, My Life in France, and a 2002 blog by Julie Powell recounting the year she spent cooking every recipe from Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, “Julie & Julia” is a delightful journey through the lives of two very different women, connected by their love of cooking. Continually switching back and forth between each woman’s individual story, we see this love save both of them from boring, meaningless lives, while their supportive—though occasionally exasperated—husbands cheer them on.

To say Meryl Streep is an incredible actress is a ridiculous understatement, but it still must be said; she is absolutely perfect as the energetic, lilting Julia. As the New York Times review of this film pointed out, often when a high-profile actor portrays a high-profile historical figure, a viewer of the film can from then on only picture the actor when envisioning the historical figure; but Streep truly becomes Julia Child, and you really feel as though you’re watching the real Julia gallivanting around Paris.

Amy Adams is equally endearing as Julie, struggling through her unfulfilled “outer borough” life until her “Julie/Julia Project” blog gives her a purpose greater than her thankless desk job. I don’t envy her having to go head-to-head with Streep, who it’s all but impossible to outperform, but she makes a valiant effort. I don’t think the character of Julie is ever intended to outshine or even match Julia; to the contrary, she is there as evidence of the continued power of Julia Child through generations of budding chefs. Julie Powell is not a famous cook, lauded through history as a groundbreaker in the field of accessible home cooking; she is merely a fan, doing her best to emanate her idol.

Many other reviews of this film have criticized both Nora Ephron’s screenplay, for being too uneven in its portrayal of the two stories and flip-flopping distractedly, and Amy Adams, for being, well, not Meryl Streep. And I would have to say I disagree. Understanding that it’s quite impossible for Amy Adams to match the prowess of Meryl Streep – though I thought she held her own well –I think the back-and-forth worked well. Just as you would begin to get caught up in Julie’s frustration’s about blogging and cooking these difficult dishes, the scene would switch to Julia, where you could listen to her distinctive voice ruminate about her cookbook undertaking. And vice versa; as you began to tire of watching Julia and her publishing frustrations, you’d be carried away back to 2002 Queens, just in time to see Julie successfully cook boeuf bourguignon.

But what makes the film truly great is that it’s not just about these two women. It’s about the recapturing of cooking as an art that was being forgotten in the 1960’s in favor of frozen dinners, and again in 2002 in favor of Chinese delivery. It’s about the loving, supportive husbands of both women, who rolled their eyes at their wives’ increasing obsession, but were always there to taste-test.

It’s about the tremendous sense of accomplishment that comes from creating something truly delicious. And Nora Ephron has done exactly that.

– Molli

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