"Julie & Julia" is simply scrumptious


Aug. 11, 2009, midnight | By Ava Wallace | 10 years, 4 months ago

Streep and Adams are a delectable combination in this original and captivating film


In a summer ruled by robots, wizards and high-tech guinea pigs emerge two unfamiliar, yet terrifically entertaining characters - cooks. "Julie & Julia" is the charming tale of two women who share a passion for food and cooking, one becoming a household name and the other finding simple happiness in recipes for French cuisine. Due simply to an interesting plot and an excellent cast, director Nora Ephron ("Bewitched," "You've Got Mail") is able to turn this story line into an unexpected summer treat.

Based on two novels, the film alternates between the story of Julia Childs (Meryl Streep) at the beginning of her career as a cook and an author, and the story of Julie Powell (Amy Adams), a woman stuck in a post-9/11 New York cooking her way through 542 of Childs's recipes. During the "Julia" parts of the movie, we see her embrace cooking as a hobby ("I need something to doooooo!" Streep warbles in a perfect impression of Childs) at her new home in France. Childs's hobby soon becomes her passion and she finds herself writing and attempting to publish a cookbook with two of her French friends. As Childs and her government-employed husband, played by Stanley Tucci, move from city to city, Childs manages to stay rooted in her work.

By now, we expect Meryl Streep to perfectly embody her character, and in "Julie & Julia," she doesn't disappoint. Streep plays the role immaculately, and portrays a big woman with an armful of love and ambition. Streep glides through the movie, subtly uncovering the bits of Childs's character that lie underneath her strength, determination and warmth. As we now picture Jamie Foxx every time Ray Charles is mentioned, Streep is Julia Childs.

While Julia Childs is inspiration, Julie Powell is inspired. The "Julie" portion of the story begins with Powell living in a depressing, Blackberry-fueled New York, using cooking as a way to escape from the drudgery of her cubicle. Powell then decides to cook her way through Childs's book, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," and blog about her task.

The usually bubbly Adams makes Powell seem incredibly normal and, at times, downtrodden. Adams appears unsure but driven, stubbornly ignoring the doubts raised by Powell's discouraging mother (Mary Kay Place). She also at times distantly under-appreciates her motivating husband, played by the likeable Chris Messina. Throughout the film, Adams portrays Powell's increasing admiration of Childs expertly, and effectively combines the two women's lives.

Thanks in part to Adams, the movie seamlessly transitions between the two stories. The alternating stories leave the audience intrigued and make the two-hour movie seem short. They also reveal surprising parallels between Julie and Julia, which add another interesting aspect to the plot and further humanize Julia Childs's celebrity status.

Both stories are interesting and unique, refreshing amidst cliché summer blockbusters. The dialogue is realistic and the script is both funny and touching. The plot on its own is very entertaining as well, but when combined with skilled actors, the comedy, drama and reality of the film become even more engaging. But the plot also presents a weakness in the movie. In the film, we see all of Julie Powell's story, but only the beginning of Julia Childs's rise to fame. Because Streep is such a captivating Childs, the movie leaves us wanting to know more about Julia, and we are inevitably slightly disappointed.

The film won't have audiences marveling at explosions or impressed by fantastic CGI images. But with an amazing cast, a refreshing, heartwarming plot and charming comedy, "Julie & Julia" will leave audiences begging for seconds. And a word to the wise - do not see this movie on an empty stomach.

"Julie & Julia" (123 minutes) is rated PG-13 for brief strong language and some sensuality. Now playing in theaters everywhere.




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