Julie & Julia is a film that should be relished with gusto–accompanied by the freshest and best ingredients, pounds of butter, and bottles of the very best wine. It lovingly celebrates the life of one of American food’s most influential and beloved figureheads: Julia Child–played here with zest, humor, and a sweet, subtle respect by Meryl Streep, whose performance is spectacular.
Julie & Julia is based on the book by Julie Powell, a frustrated New York bureaucrat who wants to be a writer. “But you’re not a writer until someone publishes you,” she moans. So she gives herself a challenge: to cook her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year, and to blog about it. As Powell (played with chirpy determination by Amy Adams), begins to find her groove as a cook, and her voice as a writer, the project takes on a life of its own–and in the end it does provide the struggling young woman with her life’s purpose, to her very pleasant surprise. But mostly, Julie & Julia is a valentine to Child, to Child’s amazing love affair with her dashing husband, Paul (Stanley Tucci, as divine as any soufflé in the film), and to her outlook on embracing life, and ordering seconds. Streep throws herself into the Child role with real affection for her character, and while certain of Child’s idiosyncrasies–including her warbly voice and unflappable haphazardness in the kitchen–are retained, it’s Child’s character and vision which form Streep’s portrayal, and which make the film so involving and rewarding. Nora Ephron directs with deftness and a light touch, though she seems at times to be encouraging some of Meg Ryan’s onscreen tics in Adams (the self-conscious head tilt, for one). But mostly she simply allows Streep to channel Child and her love of food, her husband, and 1950s Paris. And that is a recipe for something truly sublime. –A.T. Hurley Click here for the DVD, and here for the movie poster.