Nora Ephron, the writer-director of Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail, has long been Hollywood’s go-to director for romantic comedies. So when producers came up with the concept of the movie, they just had to look for her once more. Julie and Julia is adapted from 2 stories – Julia Child’s (Meryl Streep) 2006 memoir My Life in France and blogger Julie Powell’s (Amy Adams) attempt to cook every recipe in Child’s legendary cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
It’s 1961 when Julia moves to Paris with her husband Paul Child (Stanley Tucci) who works for the U.S embassy. When she hops out of the cab like an excited little girl and starts rattling away in French, it’s evident that she truly fits in this La Ville-Lumière [City of Lights is another name for Paris]. Over dinner one day, Julia realises that her life is devoid of meaning. In her words, she trills with a trying-too-hard French accent, “Shouldn’t I find something to dooooo?” To Paul’s question of what she likes to do, she quickly replies that she likes to eat. Julia then whisks herself off to Le Cordon Bleu with no culinary experience at all, beginning her journey from housewife to household name.
Then there’s Julie, pushing 30, living in a small apartment in Queens on top of a pizza joint with her husband Eric (Chris Messina) and whose dream career is to become a writer. While Eric edits an archaeology magazine, she’s stuck in a cubicle answering calls by the emotionally distressed in the wake of the 9/11 bombings.
With nothing to look forward to in her dead-end job, while her friends are achieving great career success, Julie, like Julia, searches for something worthwhile to do. Sensing that, Eric gives her a challenge – to cook and blog her way through Julia Child’s 524 recipes from the cookbook in 365 days.
Perfect in the role of Julia Child is Meryl Streep, nailing this performance as America’s favourite TV chef. She masters the accent effortlessly and impersonates Julia Child’s mannerisms without ever making fun of her – the spontaneous, non-self-conscious chortling of a happy child.
Adding to the life of the movie is the bubbly Amy Adams. This isn’t the first time the actress is starring alongside Streep. They’d both appeared in the 2008 film, Doubt.
Although Streep, who’s won the Oscar twice and been nominated a dozen times, understandably steals the limelight with her portrayal of Julia, Adams knows how to capitalise on the physically funny moments in the film, as seen when Julie suffers a meltdown in the kitchen while working on a stuffed chicken.
When it comes to the husbands of both gourmet chefs, Stanley Tucci works with Streep again, this time playing her husband, where previously he was fashion guru Nigel, next to her magazine-editor-from-hell turn in The Devil Wears Prada. Tucci’s supportive character brings a good balance to Streep as she’s chirpy and vivacious while he’s calm and level-headed.
Ephron does a superb job of making a movie of 2 parallel stories, even though they’re in completely different periods. However, as the storyline switches from one story to another it may confuse. It shuffles from Paris, France, in 1961 to Queens, New York in 2002. The intriguing mesh of the timelines certainly draws you in, allowing you to view 2 significantly different worlds. You cannot help but wait to see the how both their lives reach a vantage point but when this happens, it’s a tad disappointing. You’re expecting some joyous meeting – like when a fan meets her idol. But this doesn’t even come close.
The camera tricks were outstanding. One such task was to make Streep look like she’d grown by 20cm, to be more like the 1.88m tall chef – she was towering over most people in Paris, surrounded by luggage, shorter actors and scaled down props. It gets a little distracting, but the attention to detail was necessary for a realistic portrayal.
Not everyone will appreciate this film, but it’s perfect if you have an afternoon free with your mother, or even your grandmother. For a moment it seems like this blockbuster was taken from 2 distinct stories that were copied and pasted to form a 2-hour movie. At times, the parts that feature Julie seem long and draggy, and you wish that they’d cut the scene back to Julia in France, where the storyline is just more exciting. In fact, the entire first half shows Julia toiling over every single recipe for more than a decade to make her cookbook a success, while the ambition-driven Julie seems only interested in completing the challenge within a year, which she eventually does.
The movie was entertaining from start to finish, especially with Streep’s performance, but both husbands seemed boring as they played supporting roles which were not as colourful as their wives. The film would probably be better if it had spent more time on Julia than Julie.
It’s indeed worth it to still watch the movie just to catch Meryl Streep again.
Opens: October 15
Duration: 123 min
Director: Nora Ephron
Cast: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina, Jane Lynch