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Eric & Erica?

November 20, 2009

I think this blog is an appropriate place for me to review the film “Julie & Julia,” since the book that was made into that movie stemmed from a food blog.  In case you are totally ignorant of the film, it follows a New Yorker named Julie (played by Amy Adams) and her quest to make every recipe in legendary kitchen personality Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year.  She described each day’s progress on a blog entitled “Julie & Julia.”

The film is also part-biography of Julia Child (played by Meryl Streep), based on her book My Life in Paris, which follows her life from the early 40’s in Paris as she discovers her passion for food, to the point where she is poised to become a household name and inspiration for home cooks.

Overall it’s not bad – Julie’s story is more about finding her inner soul and her relationship with her husband than literally about her cooking all those recipes.  But Julia’s story is fascinating, and Meryl Streep is so incredible to watch.  Ironically this is to the film’s detriment, because the story lines jump back and forth, and each time a Julia Child sequence ended, I found myself hoping the Julie part would be short so we could get back to more Julia.

There is a lot of humor – the way Julia interacts with her husband Paul (marvelously played by Stanley Tucci), and how she asserts herself so matter-of-factly in a male-dominated profession.  Streep does an amazing job of conveying the love and passion for cooking that Child must have surely felt, which only reinforced my own feelings on the subject.  In the opening scene, Julia and Paul, having recently arrived in Paris, go out to eat in a classy French restaurant.  The dish they are served is fish in what appears to be a butter sauce, and the utter ecstasy they experience upon tasting it cannot be put into words…literally it seems, as they just grunt mmm and uhhh to each other, overwhelmed by the pure elation of eating this new cuisine.  There have been moments when I have tasted an exquisite piece of food and could only do likewise.

We do see parallels between Julia’s story and Julie’s, as both try to find their niche in life.  Julia wants to be a cook and share recipes with the world, but is constrained by sexual politics and the publishing industry bureaucracy.  Julie provides customer service in a government office, berated and hassled by angry members of the public all day long – her passion is for writing, so she starts blogging as her creative outlet.

There is a happy ending for both stories – throughout the year, Julie’s blog became very popular and caught the eye of several publishers, and she gets offers to turn it into a book, fulfilling her dream of becoming a writer.  Julia’s story ends when she and her husband return to the U.S., and she finds out that her cookbook will be published and there are talks of getting her own television show.

The final shot is very well done – Julie is visiting the Smithsonian and there is a replica of Julia Child’s kitchen.  The shot then fades in Paul at the kitchen table and Julia, the tall goddess of culinary entertainment doing what she loves, cooking at her stove.

Anyone who loves cooking should see this film.  Julie’s struggles and successes with her project are relatable and entertaining, but Streep’s performance alone is worth it, let alone how she makes you want to learn from her character and eat her food.  Now I have to find a chef named Erica and somehow create a connection between us so I can get a book deal too.

The Mouse House Kitchen gives “Julie & Julia” 3 out of 4 stars.

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