Thursday, January 28, 2010

Julie and Julia (2009)

It seems redundant to praise this movie. Everyone with a keyboard has talked about how nice it is that Hollywood made a good movie for women, and how great Meryl Streep is as Julia Child, and so on. They’re right, too. “Julie and Julia” really is that good.

The film is based on the blog-turned-book by Julie Powell about her yearlong project to cook every recipe in Julia Child’s classic, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Her story pretty much follows the standard stunt-memoir formula. First she is tentative-but-excited at having come up with the idea and embarking on the adventure. She makes good headway for a while. Then there’s the part where she is overwhelmed by the enormity of the task, and has a good cry. Then there’s the part where the project puts her marriage at risk. After months of struggle, she completes the project and comes to some sort of peace with it and with the changes it has made in her life. Finally, the book offers come rolling in. It’s the dream of every over-sharing, self-absorbed blogger in the world. Don’t get me wrong, though, it’s fun stuff.

Meanwhile, the film also tells Julia Child’s story: how she moved to Paris with her husband, and, inspired by the wonderful food, decided to enroll in a famous French cooking school. She wound up becoming a cooking instructor, which led to her writing her famous cookbook. The book was something of a magnum opus, but once it was finally published, it revolutionized the American palate and led to Child’s cooking show and lasting fame.

The more compelling parts of the movie are the Julia Child parts. I really have to hand it to Meryl Streep here, she is amazing as Child. (The way she disappears into the role reminds me of Jamie Foxx’s portrayal of Ray Charles in “Ray.”) Nothing particularly intense happens to Julia (or to Julie) in the course of the movie, but nonetheless, Child’s love affair with her husband and with food makes for a good story. If Streep wins some awards for this role, they will be well deserved.

4 stars out of 5

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