Julie & Julia


Directed by: Nora Ephron
Written by:Nora Ephron
Starring: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina, Linda Emond, Jane Lynch
Released: October 8, 2009
Grade: B-

In 1948, Julia Child was an unaccomplished housewife living in Paris.  With her husband working for the United States Foreign Service, Julia asked herself the question – what am I going to do with my life?  The answer was cooking.  She started taking classes and it wasn’t long before Julia herself became the teacher.  She was really, really good.

Several years later, Julia collaborated with two friends to write what would become one of the world’s most famous cookbooks – Mastering The Art Of French Cooking.  It wasn’t all smooth sailing for Julia however.  It took years to perfect the recipes and put them in writing.  It took just as long to find a publisher willing to take a chance on this 700 plus page “encyclopaedia”.

In 2002, Julie Powell was a wanna-be writer working in an unfulfilling call centre in New York City.  On the verge of turning 30, Julie was looking for a way to be creative, a way to express herself.  She decided to start a blog on the internet.  She set herself the goal of making every single recipe in Julia Child’s book within the space of a year.  That’s 524 recipes in 365 days.  All her thoughts would be published on the web for the world to see.

These two stories are told concurrently in writer-director Nora Ephron’s new film, Julie & Julia.  I think it’s a very interesting way to make a movie.  The two central characters will never speak face-to-face.  They are separated by time.  However, the film does highlight the way that we can change the lives of other people… without having to meet them.  It’s all about the legacy that we leave.

Nora Ephron has left a nice legacy herself.  Her credits include Sleepless In Seattle and You’ve Got Mail – two films that I hold in high regard.  I went into Julie & Julia with a sense of excitement but I confess that it was a little disappointing.  To use a bad metaphor, there were a few ingredients missing from pot.

This is going to be hard to explain but my major grievance is that much of the film felt like a fact-telling exercise.  There’s a lot of narration and a few scenes involving Julie sitting at her computer, putting her thoughts into words.  The problem with this technique is that I didn’t feel a lot of compassion for any of the characters.  There aren’t enough scenes where their true colours are revealed.  I don’t think I got to know the “real” Julia and the “real” Julie.  The same goes for their respective husbands.

Turning to the positives, I did like the way the film wrapped up.  It draws the connection that I mentioned before about the way in which an author can reach through the pages of a book and touch its readers.  You may think Meryl Streep’s performance is over-the-top but having seen video footage of the real Julia Child, I can proclaim that she has beautifully captured Julia’s endearing nature.

With all that said and done, I’m now off to the kitchen to create my own salacious feast… well I’m going to try.