Julie & Julia (PG-13) ★★★★

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Culinary Cinematic Delight

If this film doesn’t coerce you to drag out those old cookbooks and begin whipping up some savory dishes for you and your significant other, than I’m not sure what will! The best thing about “Julie and Julia” (besides Meryl Streep) is the notion that cooking is romantic and self-gratifying. Another reason why I totally ‘love’ this film is that strong, independent women are portrayed on-screen tackling difficult endeavors. Yes, they have a partner to lean on, but that only adds to the reality of both womens’ situations. Both ask advice and seek encouragement. Don’t we all? As a result of their enormous personal undertaking both relationships blossom. “Julie and Julia” has so much more to offer than lessons in cooking. It’s mostly about self-actualization, determination, stick-to-itiveness and relationships.

An ambitious film to be sure as two memoirs are intertwined by author/director Nora Ephron. The stories play out a cross-generational look at the difficulty of French cooking. Julia Child, an American in 1948, found herself in France without a clue as what to do with her new situation. She decides to enroll in the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu cooking school and tackle French cooking. Fast forward to Julie Powell, a New York resident in 2002, who finds herself at a crossroad in life as she feel she has not met success as a writer. Julie Powell, played by Amy Adams, decides to cook her way through Julia Child’s highly ambitious book, The Art of French Cooking, with 524 recipes and complete them in 365 days, along with a daily online blog about her experience. (Are you exhausted yet or perhaps a bit overwhelmed?)

If you are wondering if Meryl Streep was able to capture Julia Child on-screen, the answer is an enthusiastic ‘yes.’ I grew up watching Julia Child’s TV program, ‘The French Chef’ alongside Graham Kerr’s cooking program, ‘The Galloping Gourmet.’ Both chefs had a unique curiosity about them; Child’s high voice and Kerr’s British accent were unique and captivating. Both were straightforward in their approach and would flat out speak to you as if you were in the next room. I adored watching Julia as she gave listeners the confidence to approach a difficult task. Kerr, the flamboyant entertainer would sip wine during his cooking show and literally leap around the kitchen.

Julie Powell’s story is interesting in the fact that she solved her own problem of disappointment by shifting to a new direction and sticking with it. The result is astounding: 1) Published memoire 2) Hollywood film 3) Articles in major publications. She basically took lemons and made lemonade! Amy Adams’s portrayal of her is realistic to watch as we view more disappointments and setbacks than major breakthroughs.

The parallel story lines between the two women are highly entertaining; basically two films for the price of one. The French countryside and bistros are always a treat to view along with the 1949 vintage clothing. The New York home dinner parties of the younger hip crowd are pleasing and true to form. The supporting cast was great fun! The comical Jane Lynch plays Julia Child’s younger sister and was cast perfectly as her tall statue fits the role. Always fascinating on-screen, she and Streep are wonderful together. Frances Sternhagen as Irma Rombauer the author of the cookbook the, Joy of Cooking was delightful. Stanley Tucci as Child’s husband was perfect. He’s a gentle, honest and caring partner. His love for Julia is loud and clear and pours out throughout his performance.

I must confess, on my first trip to Paris I planned a cooking lesson at Le Cordon Bleu for my husband and myself. We ended up in a superior class that was taught by an animated French chef with facial expressions similar to Mr. Bean. Needless to say, this French speaking, 4 hour cooking lesson was one of the highlights of our trip. And yes, we did learn how to cook lobster!

Perhaps, I too, am drawn towards challenge, by this time in my life I certainly know that I am. Maybe that is why I am drawn to the overwhelming and sometimes agonizing challenge of writing film reviews from which I must add, derive great joy.

Bottom-line, “Julie and Julia” is an enthusiastic and entertaining film for guys and girls that teach life lessons. And…don’t be surprised if you reconnect with cooking again. I made white bean and chicken soup with cilantro 2 days after the film. Hardly a culinary ‘Iron Chef’ type recipe, although my husband was thrilled to see me cooking again. My next project: pesto and shrimp thin-crust pizza.

Sarah Adamson © 2009