Julie and Julia (2009): Movie Review

julie-and-julia1

UPDATE Feb. 2, 2010: Meryl Streep is nominated for a Best Actress Oscar in the coming 82nd Academy Awards.

UPDATE Jan. 17, 2010:  Meryl Streep has just won the Best Actress Award (Comedy or Musical) at the Golden Globes.

Update Dec. 16, 2009: Julie and Julia has been nominated for a Golden Globe Best Motion Picture Award (Musical or Comedy).

Meryl Streep has been nominated for a Golden Globe Best Actress Award (Musical or Comedy).

For someone who would rather lie on the couch and watch the Food Channel than work in the kitchen, what better way to entertain herself than to watch a full feature movie on the legendary Julia Child and her modern day follower scrambling to keep pace.  But still, I had my doubt.

123 minutes of cooking, even though I don’t need to lift a finger, could still make me feel stuffed and exhausted. And, watching a novice attempt an almost impossible feat of cooking through Child’s 524 French recipes in 365 days in a cramped apartment could mean unlimited servings of predictable, clichéd kitchen mishaps.

So, it was with little expectation that I entered the theater.  But I was pleasantly surprised and much gratified.  For first of all,  the movie is not just about food and cooking.  Rather, it describes a journey of writing, publishing, and yes, blogging.  Now that really piqued my appetite.  As for the klutzy culinary mishaps, despite their banality, they are turned into laughable moments that we can all relate to, kudos to Amy Adams (Julie) and Meryl Streep (Julia).

Writer/director Nora Ephron has done a wonderful job weaving together two different books to create the screenplay:  Julia Child’s My Life in France (co-authored by Alex Prud’homme) and Julie Powell’s Julie and Julia:  My Year of Cooking Dangerously.  The two stories, which take place 50 years apart, are intertwined so seamlessly that the audience is given the impression that the two are acting side by side.  Now here’s a spoiler alert, skip to the next paragraph right now if you don’t want to know…  The parallel story lines remained so, Julie and Julia never met. And oh how much more the plot could have thickened if they did.  I was a bit let down by this, after being set up with the ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’ cue.

The beginning of the movie sets the stage for some visually pleasing sequences.  The retro design of Julia’s 50’s France is a scrumptious delight.  A revelation: Julia Child was not born knowing how to cook.  After following her diplomat husband Paul (the ever reliable Stanley Tucci, The Devil Wears Prada, 2006; Shall We Dance, 2004) to France, she began exploring her interests.  She had to start from scratch by going to culinary school, the Cordon Bleu.  A late bloomer she was, and what an inspiration… never too late to follow your heart.  Streep has done a marvelous job delivering the personality, speech and nuances of the legendary Julia Child.  I must say though, her performance in this movie seems like a prolonged bed bouncing scene from Mamma Mia!

julie-and-julia

And fast forward to the present, the cinematic effect makes a run down, one-bedroom apartment in Queens look cozy and even inspiring, which is justly so.  Julie Powell (Amy Adams, Doubt, 2008; Enchanted, 2007) is a struggling writer, emotionally drained by her day job answering the phone at the Lower Manhattan Development Corp in the wake of 911.  Following Child’s Mastering The Art of French Cooking at home after work saves her sanity and invigorates her desire to write.  Through blogging daily about her culinary experiment, Julie ultimately realizes her dream.

It is Amy Adams that has won my heart.  She is such a natural.  Her performance is pleasingly understated, just a touch to bring out the taste.  It is after all a thankless role, a novice following the cooking guru to the dot in her cramped kitchen.  A tad bit more spicy would spoil her portrayal as merely slapstick and banal.  Her down-to-earth demeanor, like her attempt to explain to her mother what blogging is, makes it sound like a conversation taken out of our own home.  And above all, it’s her relationship with her husband Eric (Chris Messina, Made of Honor 2008) that makes the story grounded and realistic.

And finally, bravo to the two husbands who are always supportive, encouraging, eat and praise whatever their wives cook.  And all the more for Julie’s Eric, who has to silently pop Tums before bed, and, even after running away to escape the nightly ordeal, would faithfully come back ready to reconcile.  Can these men be real?  Like Ephron’s other works, let’s just treat this one as another fantasy.  For it is she who created the screenplays for Sleepless in Seattle (1993), You’ve Got Mail (1998), and yes, When Harry Met Sally (1989).  But wait, Julia Child’s My Life In France is autobiographical.  And so’s Julie Powell’s account.  The tag line does not fail to inform us so: Based on two true stories. It’s good to know.

~ ~ ~ Ripples


Published by

Arti

If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

13 thoughts on “Julie and Julia (2009): Movie Review”

  1. There’s not much more I can say about Julie and Julia at this point, but there are things in your review which reinforce my feeling that, for me, much of the story’s appeal lies less in porcini than personality.

    There are some similarities between Julia’s path in life and my own, particularly the late blooming.

    And didn’t I laugh at the reference to Julie trying to explain blogging to her mother! I still haven’t achieved that particular goal – maybe I’ll find some tips in the movie.

    How wonderful that both of these women had supportive spouses! – but it’s worth reminding ourselves that a woman’s greatness need not depend on such a presence in her life.

    Wonderful review, that only makes me more eager to see the film – which I’ll be doing this weekend.

    Linda,

    I hope the little spoiler in my post won’t affect your appreciation of the movie. And for me, the late blooming part is both comforting and stimulating.

    And of course, you’re right in pointing out that our self-worth does not depend on other’s approval or appreciation. I’m sure you’d find that’s one of the most appealing ideas in JA’s P & P.

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment!

    Arti

    Like

  2. Dear Arti,

    Your thoughtful and detailed review is as superb as always! Thank you for sharing this movie with me! It was an honour! 🙂

    Oh yes, thank you for putting this on here so quickly! I may not have had the chance to catch this, if you know what I mean.

    Diana

    Yes Diana, this one’s for you! Have a good trip back to where there’s no blogging… till next year, let’s keep in touch via emails. All the best and Godspeed!

    Arti

    Like

  3. Dear Arti,
    I watched this movie as my birthday treat with my Birthday Buddies. We all agreed that we loved the movie. I’m particularly glad that I ate beforehand since many of the scenes were so appetizing.
    I look forward to your next review!
    Cathy

    Hi Cathy,

    You’re smart to have eaten before watching the movie. I didn’t, and you know the result. People around me probably thought the sound effects were super not knowing it was my stomach growling nearby.

    Thanks for visiting and leaving your comment!

    Arti

    Like

  4. This might actually be a movie I go to a theater to see…
    Thanks for the great review!
    The first dish my husband cooked for me on a date before we were married came from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. He also has a signature soup he makes for us and travelers who stop in from these books!

    How wonderful Ellen! Your account sounds like movie materials for a sequel. Thanks for sharing!

    Arti

    Like

  5. a lovely review! I mean, a good one, I mean, because I wanted it to be good, and I believe you, so daughter and I are going to see it next week! Yay!
    You made me laugh though talking about Ms Streep doing a prolonged bed bouncing! and I am SO glad Amy Adams comes through – again! She is one fine actress. And I do enjoy Stanley though i have him pigeon-holed from THE DEVIL… which, btw, is a fave of mine. Oh yes, I can be shallow in my movie-watching? but isn’t that what movies are for (sometimes)?

    Funny, I didn’t love the book JULIE AND JULIA but I am to get the venerable Ms. Child’s autobio this weekend. She writes of all things I love, most of all France. (ok, yes, food, too, but like you, um, I’d rather watch a cooking show than actually cook. However, baking is another story!)

    Thanks for this one, Arti!!!!!!

    oh,

    It’s hard to write a review without giving out the plot. Yes, this sure is one you need to experience yourself. I mean it’s not a perfect movie, it’s probably 20 minutes too long I think… but, there are certain things that are fascinating and I shouldn’t say too much here. What better way to enjoy it than with a daughter! Let me know what you think afterwards. Bon Appetit!

    Arti

    Like

  6. Loved the movie. It was so delicious, and I’m not just talking about the food. Julia Child had such a great appreciation and joy for everything in life. I really enjoyed your review and how you savored the movie.

    A friend told me to check out the Austin, Texas, Statesman newspaper for an interview with the real Julie, who was actually from Austin apparently and had a very supportive mother. (I haven’t done so yet…) I want so much for Julia to be the real Julia Child in this movie and not a literary device, so maybe I’ll read her book.

    Cathy,

    Thanks for the heads up to Julie’s interview. I’ll check that out. And I think it’ll be good to actually read Child’s book. I think that’ll be authentic revelation of the real life character. Thanks for your comment!

    Arti

    Like

  7. Arti ~

    I saw the movie last night and was absolutely entranced from beginning to end.

    I was surprised to find myself as interested in Julie’s story as in Julia’s. It wasn’t Julie the cook who intrigued me, but Julie the blogger. There was so much to identify with – the mysteries of setting up a blog, the days of wondering, “Is anyone reading this?”, the breath-holding wait for the first comment. As for the phone calls from her mother, well… Nora Ephron must have a tap on my phone.

    The beauty of Ephron’s structure in the film is the nearly perfect parallel she draws between Julia’s experience with her book and Julie’s experience with her blog. In the end, the irony is that Julia doesn’t seem to see that parallel, and Julie has a hard time understanding that Julia’s year’s long struggle for recognition and succces might leave her slightly envious or dismissive of someone who seems to achieve her fame so quickly.

    The only mystery to me about this film-going experience is why I was moved to tears so often. When I figure THAT one out, I’ll let you know!

    Linda,

    I too could identify with Julie’s blogging journey… totally! And was so excited for her in her turning from a blogger to a published writer. It took 8 years for Julia Child to publish her first Cookbook. The writing road is long and hard, demanding the most persevering of spirits. Such a journey can be a moving experience in itself, and we as bloggers/aspiring writers can definitely find inspiring. Yes, this movie is a feast with multiple courses, and I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed it.

    Arti

    Like

  8. Arti,

    I finally saw this movie yesterday, with Sis-in-law and the college student. There was much in both women that I could identify with: Julia’s rapture in seeing Paris for the first time; Julie’s early culinary disasters (I once dropped an entire, very hot, lasagne at my mother-in-law’s feet); and a few other things, some of which have already been mentioned. Anyway, it was a good experience overall…and your review is spot on. Meryl Streep is mattress-bouncing; Stanley Tucci is marvelous (he is such an understated, deliberate actor); Amy Adams was great fun!

    Someday perhaps I’ll read Julia’s autobiography; I doubt I’d ever be able to cook my way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Oh yes, the MIL owns that one! gulp)…And the blogging/writing stuff, we don’t need to go into that,do we?

    ds,

    I know what you mean… if we go into that, it’ll take us a new post! I think the movie reaches its audience thru its different facets, and that’s its appeal. I’m sure all of us can identify with Julie in some way, if not the cooking, then it’s the blogging. Or with Julia about finding something to do in midlife that we can truly devote ourselves, follow the dream that has been suppressed all those years for practical reasons.

    I’m glad you’ve enjoyed yourself… just watching other people bed bouncing for 2 hours can be exhausting. But good for MS, she sure has some energy!

    Arti

    Like

  9. Arti,

    Oh, too funny – we must be on the same blogging wavelength – first Banff, now Julie and Julia, although your review was much more detailed and thorough then mine. I truly enjoyed the film too, and went in with a bit more skepticism than normal, but I love Nora Ephron. She’s fabulous too!

    Janelle,

    Yes, wasn’t she great at 59 (at the time of making the movie, now 60). And, since you’re a NE fan, have you seen her interview, together with MS, on Charlie Rose? If you missed it, it’s on YouTube in four parts. Thanks for stopping by!

    Arti

    Like

  10. “And finally, bravo to the two husbands who are always supportive, encouraging, eat and praise whatever their wives cook. ”

    This was what really stood out to me in this movie too, the portrayal of healthy, supportive marital relationships and men who were the cheerleaders and the “good guys.” (I get so weary of men always being selfish, non supportive jerks.) It was really inspiring to see these two women set a goal, follow through and achieve success beyond their wildest dreams.

    Thank you for the lovely detailed review of this movie.

    Jennifer,

    Yes, isn’t it encouraging to find these husbands are for real and not fictional! Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment!

    Arti

    Like

  11. Now that I have watched the DVD at home with my girls, I feel compelled to go out and buy Julia’s book. I always wanted to meet her but never had the chance to do so… I came close but things just didn’t work out when I was working for Montecito Fire Department where Julia lived until she passed away. I did want to mention to you that as far as blogs go, your writing style is superb. I plan on bookmarking your posts and reading other things that you share through the world of blogging. I am also a cook, but instead of cooking in a restaurant, I cook every third shift at a fire station… Stay safe and keep writing! CBz

    Captain Busy,

    Thank you for your comment and your very kind words.

    Julia was quite a character and Meryl Streep is animated in portraying her. Yes, I’m sure it would be an experience if you’d the chance to meet and talk to her personally. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the movie with your girls. Wonder what effect it had on them… I trust the movie has sparked more joy in cooking for you 🙂

    Again, thanks for your visit and hope to hear from you again!

    Arti

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s