Guest Author - Karen L Hardison
Amy Adams has come a long way since she co-starred as Amy in The Wedding Date (2005) with Debra Messing and Dermot Mulroney. Her journey has taken her through an Enchanted (2007) singing role and a stint as a Congressional aid for Charlie Wilson's War (2007) to cleaning up with the lead in Sunshine Cleaning (2008), with Emily Blunt, all the way to two supporting roles with Meryl Streep: Doubt (2008) and Julie & Julia (2009). Her journey touched down for many more pit stops, like Talladega Nights (2006) and Night at the Museum (2009) and definitely has very much farther to go.
Amy Adams' role as Julie Powell in Julie & Julia is a narrowly focused one. Julie is occasionally shown at work as a depressed call-center operator post 9/11 and very often shown cooking in her small upstairs flat kitchen (above a pizza place) and sometimes eating and sometimes talking--or crying. Adams does a surprisingly winning job in such a surprisingly narrow role: She cooks as though each dish is a discourse of profound import with humanity.
Julie Powell loves cooking. To lift her sagging spirits, she commits herself to cooking through the 524 recipes in Julia Child's book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in 365 days. This is Herculean feat. Julie knows success and heartbreak and tragic failure, and it all occurs after work and on weekends and holidays. French cooking is not an easy task; recipes take time for preparation and for cooking. In the end, the blog she reluctantly starts at her husband's encouragement makes her famous, catapults her into the arena of author and chronicles her year-long march through French cuisine recipes
Meanwhile, screenplay writer and director Nora Ephron turns the clock back to the story of Julia Child in France with her husband who is in the Diplomatic Corp. Julia gets bored; acknowledges that she eats very well; and takes professional French cusine classes along with the country's top chefs-in-training. Her accomplishment is legion. After living this glorious, though accidental, experience along with Julia, we walk with her through the thorny fields around getting her first cookbook published. Julia meets Julie through an interview at the end of Julie's long trail through 524 recipies with a remark declaring Julie...for this you need to watch the movie.
Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci are charming playing opposite each other--talk about a long and varied journey: Stanley Tucci is transitioning from character actor to leading man and this is to the benefit and advantage of movie lovers. Streep does an uncanny job of duplicating Julia Child's bright personality and unusual style. It is said by learning style specialists that five percent of the population have a learning style that requires motion. For this five percent, this propensity to motion is evident in every moment of life. Julia Child seems to have been part of this five percent and Streep catches this perpetual motion brilliantly.
One distraction from full immersion in the story of the film is Julie's husband, Eric Powell, played by Chris Messina of Ira & Abby (2006) and Vicky Christina Barcelona (2008) fame. Messina has proven his talent and charisma as an actor but in Julie & Julia his role as Eric falls flat. There can three possible reasons for this: (1) his acting was substandard, (2) the role was poorly written, (3) the role was poorly directed. The screenplay was written from Julie Powell's autobiographical book Julie & Julia recounting her real-life cooking excursion. Nora Ephron adapted the book to a screenplay and directed it. Since Stanley Tucci's role as Paul Child, Julia Child's devoted husband, suffers from a shallowness similar to Messina's role, indicators point to the flaw being with Nora Ephron's screenplay writing and directing.
Julie & Julia is one film that will outlive its era, despite imperfections in Ephron's screenplay and directing (the majority of which is top-notch). If you haven't seen Julie & Julia yet, do watch it, just remember that there are suggestive sexual scenes that (sadly) limit the age of children in attendance in what would otherwise be a great family film.
[Julie & Julia seen at Reviewer's own expense.]