FILMREVIEW: Julie and Julia

Newsroom 30/11/2009 | 00:00

Fifty years later, New Yorker Julie is also struggling to find her niche. Stuck in a dispiriting agency job dealing with 9/11-related problems, living in a grotty Queens flat, she is fed up with her work, her friends and her life. Encouraged by her own supportive husband, Julie (Amy Adams) gives herself a mission: she will spend a year cooking every single one of the recipes in Julia Child’s seminal book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and write a blog about it.The film interweaves the stories of the two women’s culinary projects, darting back and forth between 2002 New York and 1950s and 60s France. We see Julia defy a condescending French madam to pass her cookery exam, and gradually earn the respect of her chef classmates. We see her form a friendship with a comedy double act of local ladies and the trio embark on their insanely ambitious project, which at one point is a seven-tome series. Meanwhile, we see Julie bake, broil and braise her way to confidence and fulfilment, as her blog slowly builds up a loyal following.Both women go through ups and downs. Julia’s liberal husband Paul (Stanley Tucci) is suspected by McCarthyist agents of having Communist sympathies, and her project is nearly derailed by the couple’s enforced departure from France. Fifty years later, Julie’s all-consuming obsession with her own gastronomic mission threatens her marriage to Eric (Chris Messina). But you suspect the recipe will turn out alright in the end.It’s an unusual premise – what was the last film you saw about someone writing a cookbook? – and there’s a lot of sparkle in this picture, which comes from the director of classic heart-warmers When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle. An unashamedly feel-good film, some realism has been sacrificed for the sake of the warm glow inside. But there is so much to like here that it doesn’t matter very much. The vital ingredient in this cinematic comfort food is Meryl Streep, who really goes to town with Julia Child’s odd drawl, linguistic quirks and mannerisms. Even if you didn’t have a clue who Child was before the film, Streep’s exuberant performance is a delight to behold. And how rare and refined that a movie be made about one ordinary person’s pursuit of distinction in as banal (to many) a field as cookery. The modern-day American segment is not as much fun, missing the atmosphere, charm and eccentricity of the France events. But Adams makes Julie a likeable and engaging character, despite her increasing self-absorption and annoyingness as her endeavour progresses. Aside from some palavers with her husband and the editors sniffing around her project, there’s not much drama in the Julie arc. But her culinary escapades are diverting enough, even if they lack the spice of Julia’s quest. Julie and Julia never met, and the latter was reportedly dismissive of the blog. But the juxtaposition of the two women’s lives results in a digestible, delectable movie blend that goes down nicely. 
Debbie Stowe
Director: Nora Ephron
Starring: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina
On at: : Cinema City Cotroceni

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