August 8, 2009

Julie & Julia (08/08/09)

Lettergrade: B-

I probably wouldn't see Julie & Julia on my own, but my wife who, like the first half of the film's title, keeps a very entertaining food blog, wouldn't miss it. I've only attended Nora Ephron movies occasionally, and usually don't think much of them. Her filmography includes such instant classics as You've Got Mail, Michael, and most horrifically, that shitty Bewitched remake that Will Ferrell was in. Nevertheless I was quite surprised to find that there was a lot about this movie that I quite liked.

I've been a life-long plain eater, and as such I cannot say that all the French cuisine that Julia Child prepares throughout the flick had my mouth watering, but the real pleasure for me here, aside from the stellar acting from Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, was that I found a connection with the parallel stories of the two women in different time periods who arrived at points in their lives where they simply wanted something more than what was in front of them. Julia Child does it by learning how to become a master chef in 1950s Paris, where her diplomat husband is stationed, and then spending years attempting to get her future-landmark cookbook, Mastering The Art Of French Cooking, picked up. Julie Powell, living in Brooklyn around 2003 or so, attempts to cook every single recipe from that same book within the span of a year while keeping a very detailed, entertaining blog about it. If you really love to do something, why not go after it? If you're lucky, you'll figure out how to make a living along the way.

Perhaps it's just where I'm at in my life at the moment, but another poignant element for me was Julie's feeling that her friends have run circles around her, both in career and in adult life. A lot of the criticism directed at the movie faults the "Julie" half for being considerably less interesting than the Julia Child material. That may be valid, but somehow I feel like this is a good marriage of subjects. I'm not sure I'd have a lot of interest in seeing a straight Julia Child picture by itself, and I don't believe Julie's story would hold up well if divorced from that of her beloved cookbook's author. The intercutting between the two story-lines evokes The Godfather Part II, but certainly I can think of lesser movies to borrow a device from.

The movie feels a bit longer than its runtime, but what the hell? It's an entertaining picture with great acting that's witty and meaningful without being saccharine or cloy. Do you think anyone's going to walk out of G.I. Joe this weekend saying that?

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