This August 15, 2012 was Julia Child’s 100th birthday! In acknowledgment and in celebration of this trailblazing foodie and oh-so-remarkable woman, I watched the movie Julie & Julia all over again.
In a nutshell, Julie & Julia is a tale of two parallel lives — one of an aspiring writer slogging away in a boring job and living in Queens with her husband, the other of Julia Child who, during the late 1940s and 1950s, felt restless and intellectually adrift while living in Paris with her husband. Child then discovered her true calling when she decided to learn how cook the proper French way at the famed Le Cordon Bleu. Powell, on the other hand, needing some creative direction and fulfillment in her life, also challenged herself by cooking ALL 524 recipes in Julia Child’s famous cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, every day for one year and chronicling her attempts in her blog.
Written and directed by Nora Ephron, it is based on Child’s autobiography with Alex Prud’homme, “My Life in France” and Julie Powell’s blog-turned-book entitled “Julie & Julia : 365 days, 524 recipes, 1 tiny apartment“. It stars the magnificent Meryl Streep, masterfully portraying the inimitable Julia Child down to her fluting drawl to a tee, and Amy Adams as author and amateur cook Julie Powell. The extraordinarily talented Stanley Tucci, one of my most favorite actors ever, plays Julia’s husband Paul Cushing Child with a brilliance and a strong yet subtle presence that complemented and stood up to Meryl Streep’s dazzling cinematic charisma.
As The Vine review said: “Julie & Julia is not a mere celebration of food but a pleasant pair of true stories about the hand that rocks the ladle.” Yes, it is a delightful film. Definitely worth watching, if you like foodie films as I do. BUT, it’s not great — for me, it so failed to resolve satisfactorily the Julie and Julia connection, that it felt a bit anticlimactic. Most of my favorite scenes were in the “Julia” part of the story. Amy Adams is charming and sympathetic but the lovely shots of Paris, the tour de force performance of Meryl Streep, together with Stanley Tucci, and the colorful character that was Julia Child simply drown out the more prosaic life of Powell/Adams and her husband. In fact, after watching the movie the first time, I actually went out and bought a hardbound copy of Child’s famous cookbook. Not that I would ever attempt to replicate what Julie Powell did. I can’t even master the French omelet (yet?), despite how easy Julia Child makes it out to be.
P.S. I kept a clipping about Julia Child from a November 2001 issue of Oprah’s O magazine, where she lays out 8 of her favorite books — The Soul of a Chef : The Journey Toward Perfection by Michael Ruhlman, The French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller, Kitchen Confidential : Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain, How To Read a French Fry and Other Stories of Intriguing Kitchen Science by Russ Parsons, Stand Facing The Stove: The Story of the Women Who Gave America the Joy of Cooking by Anne Mendelson, The Essential Rilke, Edith Wharton : A Biography by R.W.B. Lewis, and mystery novels by Mary Higgins Clark and Sue Grafton.