Julie & Julia
Satisfies the Cinematic Taste Buds

Since it is virtually impossible to write about a Meryl Streep movie without mentioning her Oscar chances, I figured I might as well get that out of the way right up front.  Her performance as cooking legend Julia Child in Nora Ephron’s new film Julie & Julia easily puts her on the short list of Oscar front-runners, a position she certainly must be used to by now.  Streep nails Child’s mannerisms, voice and booming personality.  She also manages the subtleties, such as a scene in which the child-less Julia learns of her sister’s pregnancy.  But as the title suggests, this movie is about more than just Julia Child.

The “Julie” of the title is Julie Powell, a lowly cubicle worker dealing with the lesser-publicized aftermath of 9/11.  A one-time aspiring author, Julie now feels as if her life has stalled while she continues to watch her closest friends climb up towards the top of the ladder of success.  Needing something to jumpstart her life, she decides to write a blog.  The question becomes: what to write about?  The only thing that really seems to make her happy is cooking, but she doesn’t consider herself a real cook like her favorite, Julia Child.  Soon, she has her goal: she will take the next year of her life and cook her way through all 524 recipes in Child’s cookbook.

Meryl Streep as Julia Child in Julie & JuliaThe film bounces back and forth between Julie’s struggles to complete her assignment and Julia’s own path of discovery towards becoming, well, Julia Child.  What unites the stories together is that both women just wanted to find something to do, and ended up creating something that would radically change both of their lives.

Streep is joined again by her Doubt co-star Amy Adams, although this time around they do not get to spend any time on screen together.  Although she certainly has the less flashy part, Adams delights as Julie Powell and despite the lack of flash, her scenes prove every bit as entertaining as Streep’s.  And while I’m sure all the Oscar buzz and credit will go to the two fine actresses, mention must be made of Stanley Tucci and Chris Messina, who more than hold their own in the difficult roles of the loving, supportive husbands of Child and Powell, respectively.

The movie’s first half is a delight.  The film cuts between the two stories nicely and both actresses successfully draw the audiences in to their respective projects.  Unfortunately, momentum in movies is something that is very difficult to maintain and the film’s second half seems to drag for one reason or another.  The editing between the two stories seems less crisp.  For instance, there is one moment when Julie Powell reveals that she will have a special guest for dinner, then the film cuts back to Julia.  This is fine to generate some suspense, but the movie then stays with Child for much to long before finally returning to Powell and her special guest.  There wasn’t even a connection between the Child scene and the dinner guest.

The film also drags because as good as Streep is, Julia Child’s “Bon Appetit” flare is a little hard to take for the length of a feature film, even if she is only in half of it.  Half hour doses on her television show are a more appropriate length.

There is also a revelation in the film in the form of a phone call that Julie receives that I’m sure happened just so in real life, but it really seems to take the life out of the whole idea of the film.  Fortunately, the film recovers for a delightful, just ending.

Despite losing steam in its second half, Julie & Julia is still a very fun, entertaining film that features some fine performances from its talented cast.  It’s a tasty treat sure to satisfy your cinematic taste buds.

Julie & Julia is rated PG-13 for “brief strong language and some sensuality.”  The language and sensuality are present, but they are both very minor.  This could probably have gotten by with a PG rating.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Julie & Julia.