Julie & Julia
starring Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci and Chris Messina
screenplay by Nora Ephron
directed by Nora Ephron
I watched Julie & Julia because I think Meryl Streep is a great actress, because Stanley Tucci is one of my favorite actors, and because I know who Julia Child was, that she was important, and why she was important. I remember my mother watching her cooking show on television. I didn’t watch it, but I unavoidably caught glimpses of it and I wondered about this really tall woman with the square shoulders whose voice sounded so masculine.
This is a girl’s movie, but I still liked it. Briefly, Julie Powell is a writer adrift in her life as she approaches her thirtieth birthday. As a project to give herself concrete, short-term goals she decides to cook all of the recipes in Julia Child’s famous cookbook, The Art of French Cooking, in one year. That’s more than five hundred recipes. Then, she writes a daily blog to record her progress.
The film alternates between two story lines: Julia and her diplomat husband, Paul, living in post war France; Julie in early 21stcentury Queen’s. Both women worked in government clerical jobs before discovering the transcendence of cuisine. Nora Ephron based her script on Child’s autobiography My Life in France (with Alex Prud’homme), and Powell’s own book about her cooking experience, for which the film is named.
I would have given the film more stars if I thought there was more to it. But I am bothered by a feeling of silly vacuity to it. There is no great drama or human issues at play. It’s just about a self-pitying but clever New Yorker with too much time on her hands. Julia Child was an original. Julie Powell is not.