Julie & Julia

“Julie & Julia.” Nora Ephron, director. Columbia Pictures, 123 minutes.

“Julie & Julia” is two stories in one, both of them true. In 2002 Julie Powell (Amy Adams) was in a funk, working for an insurance company dealing with survivors of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and looking for something meaningful to do with her life (that sentence should give you a clue to Julie’s self-absorption). She came up with a plan: she would cook every recipe in Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” and write a blog about it.

This naturally leads to the other half of the story: how Julia Child (Meryl Streep) came to write said book. In 1948 Julia was in a funk, having just moved to Paris with her diplomat husband, and looking for something meaningful to do with her life. “What do you like most to do?” her husband (Stanley Tucci) wisely asks in the film. “Eat!” she responds unabashedly, a delicious bite of sole meuniere still melting in her mouth. She came up with a plan: she would learn to cook French food–at Le Cordon Bleu, no less!

Both projects ended up as books, and both ended up on the screen–Julia’s on the small one, Julie’s on the large. Child’s cooking show ran for ten years and became the model for cooking shows today; Julie’s book is significant because it brought Julia’s story to the big screen.

Streep settles comfortably into Julia’s large shoes, playing the role with gleeful abandon. She relishes her food, guffaws at her own foibles, and gamely carries on when things go wrong. She loves her husband passionately, and his love for her is just as apparent. The section includes an equally strong and ebullient performance by Jane Lynch as Julia’s sister, Dorothy. This portion of the film is delightful and robust, made even stronger by the short but poignant reference to Julia’s heartbreak at not being able to have children. She barrels through life with a stiff upper lip, an effervescent smile, and a fine set of knives.

Adams, always a fine actor, portrays Julie Powell admirably. It’s fun watching her try out every recipe (and reach for the Tums nearly every night). She moves from perky brightness to weepy meltdown with equal ease, portraying her character the way she apparently is written. Some moments are quite spontaneous and clever. The problem is, Powell simply isn’t as interesting as Child. One waits for Julia’s story to return the way one munches on a roll while waiting for the entree to be served.

Although the storytelling is uneven, the film is well worth seeing. The story of Julia Child’s indefatigable determination to publish her cookbook is inspiring to any entrepreneur, and Julie Powell’s story gives the audience a reason to think, “Darn. I could have done that!” followed by a hopeful “I could do something else!” If nothing else, it will inspire you to sharpen your knives and start cooking.

As Julia would say, “Bon app├ętit!”

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