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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “‘Julie & Julia’ satisfies, frustrates with its two stories”

    Amy+Adams%2C+as+Julie+Powell%2C+poses+in+front+of+a+portrait+of+Meryl+Streep+who+plays+Julia+Child+in+Julie+%26+Julia
    Amy Adams, as Julie Powell, poses in front of a portrait of Meryl Streep who plays Julia Child in ‘Julie & Julia’

     

    Has your mom or dad ever told you that you couldn’t have dessert until you eat your vegetables? You’ll feel the same sort of frustration when watching “”Julie & Julia.””

     

    The movie is based on the memoirs “”Julie & Julia”” by Julie Powell and “”My Life in France”” by Julia Child, and posthumously completed by Alex Prud’homme. It follows Julie Powell (Amy Adams) and Julia Child (Meryl Streep) as they find meaning through cooking.

     

    Powell is a secretary at a government agency where the work is soulless and thankless, despite the admirable goal of creating a memorial for the Sept. 11 site in New York. She begins a blog documenting her year of cooking every recipe out of the first volume of Child’s “”Mastering the Art of French Cooking.””

     

    Child is a newly wed wife in post-WWII France where she strives to occupy herself while her diplomat husband Paul (Stanley Tucci) works. She learns how to cook classic French cuisine and soon develops her classic cookbook.

     

    Nora Ephron, who wrote and directed, tries to blend the two narratives into a grand, romantic message of empowerment and self-discovery, but ends up with a story that collapses like a poorly made soufflé.

     

    The opening sequence sets the pattern for the rest of the movie. Powell and husband Eric (Chris Messina) make the long trek to their new home in Queens, N.Y. Then we see Child and husband Paul head to their apartment in Paris, France. Child’s apartment oversees the center of Paris and is full of precise and vibrant colors and designs. It’s the kind of setting that makes you want to linger just a little while longer. Powell moves into a drab studio apartment above a pizzeria. Like Powell, you want to move on as quickly as possible.

     

    And that’s the main problem with the entire movie: Child’s early years in France look and sound more interesting than Powell’s year of cooking.

     

    This is not to fault the performance of Amy Adams, though. She portrays Powell with the right mix of sweet naïveté and maddening neurosis, from her rapid nervous talking during the visit by Amanda Hesser of The New York Times, to her look of disappointment after Child’s first editor, Judith Jones, cancels a dinner of boeuf bourguignon due to rain.

     

    With Ephron’s distinct bias in favor of Child’s life story, Powell’s year of cooking and struggling comes off as bland. An argument with Eric leads to him leaving and sleeping at his office, but thanks to Ephron’s seeming fear of portraying any domestic conflict beforehand, the resulting separation is more than a little baffling.

     

    Meryl Streep is Julia Child in this movie. Her uncanny performance brings to life Child’s spirit of humor and optimism, recalling the joie de vivre of her PBS shows. Whether it’s discovering the deliciousness of sole meunière or buying all sorts of gadgets for her kitchen, watching Streep portray all of Child’s physical and vocal mannerisms is a joy — a shame it’s only half the movie.

     

    Fans of Julia Child and of cooking will find much to enjoy in “”Julie & Julia.”” (Ephron and cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt do a wonderful job of presenting the cooking sequences and the food in a delectable light.) But they will have to sit through overly rosy characters and an underdeveloped half of a story. C’est la vie.

     

    Rating: B-

    Rated PG-13 for brief strong language and some sensuality.

    123 minutes

     

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