Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Movie Review: Julie & Julia

A condensed version of this post is available here.

As is known to most people who read my blog (Hi Mom!), my part-time job is at The Cookbook Store. There are many positive things about working at the store, including being surrounded by fabulous books and people all the time, but also the occasional “get-in-free” card to some pretty cool events. Most recently I was given the opportunity to attend an advance screening of the new film Julie & Julia, and was completely smitten.

The film takes its name from food-blogger turned memoirist Julie Powell’s first book, in which she chronicles her decision to cook and blog her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume One. The book itself is an entertaining exploration of a young woman trying to come to terms with the sometimes frustrating doldrums of adulthood, while still cultivating a sense of joy, creativity and accomplishment.

Screenwriter and director Nora Ephron skillfully takes the story one step further, by additionally adapting from Julia Child’s memoir, My Life in France. This second book documents the years in which Mrs. Child initially learned to cook, developed her insatiable passion for French food, and laboured to complete and publish the same book on which Powell focuses.

The story seamlessly bounces back and forth between New York circa 2003 and late 1940s Paris, documenting both Julie’s and Julia’s challenges, triumphs, sorrows and joys. Ephron does a wonderful job highlighting the similarities in the lives of these two food obsessed, yet very different women. Both are portrayed as charming but normal, experiencing the whole gamut of emotions everyday life can bring, successfully allowing for a genuine personal connection between the audience and the characters on screen. As is usual for most book-to-screen adapatations, noticeable liberties are taken with both stories, but the spirit of each book is truly given justice. In fact, after having enjoyed each of these women’s memoirs, I would venture to say that the interlacing and juxtaposition of the two lives makes for an even more enjoyable experience than the two separately.

As the doting husbands, both Stanley Tucci (Paul Child) and Chris Messina (Eric Powell) give endearing performances. Well executed and droll appearances by bit players Linda Emond (Simone Beck), Mary Lynn Rajskub (Julie’s Friend Sarah) and Frances Sternhagen playing Joy of Cooking’s author Irma Rombauer, are also noteworthy. Amy Adams’ Julie Powell wins you over as a regular gal fighting her way through French cookery (and is much less annoying than the trailer makes her appear). And of course, Meryl Streep is her usual phenomenal, chamelon-like self, portraying the excitable, unmistakable Julia Child, with a dead-on rendition of that marvelous warbling, sing song voice proclaiming to all “Bon appetit!

Opens Friday, August 7th, 2009.