Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Julie and Julia

Julie and Julia is an absolutely delightful close to the Summer. Amy Adams stars as Julie Powel, a skilled amateur cook lacking something that can't be fulfilled through her cubicle job. She finds an outlet through Julia Child. Julie gives herself one year to cook every recipe in Julia's "Mastering the art of French Cooking" and blog about it. 500 and some recipes in one year. Meanwhile, the movie features the parallel, and more compelling, story of Julia Child as she's writing the book.

Despite some certainly dramatic moments, the movie maintains a decidedly lighthearted tone through most of it. I don't think there was a single scene with Julia Child (played brilliantly by Meryl Streep) that didn't elicit a smile on my face. Her infectious positive, even when things didn't go her way (and this was a lot) was astounding. I'm hoping for an Oscar nomination for her role. Amy Adams seemed to hold her own pretty well as Julia Child's modern counterpart. She wasn't as effective as Meryl Streep, but then again, who is?

The movie switches between Child trying to get her book made, and Powel trying to get her blog made. They both faced completely different, yet somehow linked trials. Both were lost in a way, not sure what they wanted, and both found salvation through cooking (Julia as a profession, Julie as a hobby). The similarities also carried into their tasks. Julie finds herself overwhelmed by the momentous task, whereas Julia had trouble keeping it as small as it was. The major difference between the two was that Julie's endeavor started to drive a wedge between her and her husband (Chris Messina) whereas Julia and her husband Paul (Stanley Tucci with yet another amazing performance) never let anything get between them. It's almost certain that his presence played a major role in her never gloomy attitude.

They both found themselves in a situation many can relate to. Though Julie had her identity crisis about 20 years younger than Julia's, and dealt with it in a very public forum. Of course the food was center stage for both of them. Though Julie often found it more obligation and bane than salvation (the scene when she tries to make an aspic for example). But what was possibly even more important than just the food, was the process- the exploration.

The part with Julie got off to a but of a slow start. Whereas Julia seemed to fall naturally into her quest for french cuisine, Julie's motives seemed a little forced. The first twenty minutes or so are filled with very expository conversations. The inciting argument that drove her into the block was painfully obvious. It stopped just short of her husband saying "I dare you." Julie took this off the cuff remark seriously and the seeds that would eventually grow into her book were sown. This is a very minor, quibble, however, and the rest of the movie makes up for it. Besides these few forced moments, this is one of the most charming films I've seen in some time.


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