[note: normally i would write my movie reviews in my other blog. but since the movie i am writing about is all about food (or at least most of it is), it only felt right to post it here.]
if you like cooking or baking – are passionate about it, in fact – wouldnt it have crossed your mind at some point that this is what you want to do for the rest of your life? it has for me, and maybe that’s why i eagerly awaited “julie & julia” – a movie based on real-life stories of two women in entirely different times who were passionate about cooking, and whose passion was to become a major part of their life and their identity.
for those of you who are yet to watch it, here is a little summary: julia child was a famous chef, cook book author and tv show host. she is most famous for introducing french cuisine to the american audience through her books (especially mastering the art of french cooking, 1961) and tv program (the french chef, 1963). Julie Powell on the other hand, is a Manhattan resident who looks to Julia as as inspiration, started a blog chronicling her efforts to try out every single one of Julia’s 524 recipes from mastering the art…, and later published her experience as a book.
and all this is the basis of the movie.
which, come to think about it, is probably far too big a subject for two hours worth of screen time. but let me not skip the steps here.
watching meryll streep step into the shoes of julia child and bring the character to life is the heart of this movie. the extraordinary ease and charm with which she does it made me wonder if this was really the woman who played the fashionably sophisticated and ruthless magazine doyen in the devil wears prada. while julia child comes across as a lady full of cheer and good humour from the start, you get glimpses of her inner nettle through incidents such as the one where she chops up a mountain of onions to settle the score with her male classmates at cordon bleu, who looked down on her less advanced chopping skills.
stanley tucci plays the sophisticated and cultured paul child, who complements meryll streep to a tee. together, streep and tucci re-create the story of julia and paul child’s loving marriage and help weave its spirit into the story of julia’s ascent as a culinary inspiration. a significant part of the story is also narrated from letters that paul child writes to his brother and which julia writes to her friend. as the story progresses, one cannot help but be bound by streep’s and tucci’s emotions, share in them, and be absorbed in the tale of a woman who broke the barriers and made french cooking a universally adaptable phenomenon.
the other side of the movie focusses on present-day julie. at the beginning, julie’s story rings a bell with many – she moves into a tiny appartment, has an even tinier kitchen and has to work in a job that is far from pleasing. she is a good cook and cooks to make up for the bad days at work. however, she feels inadequate in the midst of her very successful millionaire friends (who seem to be totally insensitive as well). her frustration is felt rather obviously at several points, which unfortunately tends to overpower her strengths. however, looking to julia child as an inspiration, she moves on with her attempt to try out every recipe in the book and publish her experiences in her blog.
chris messina, who plays the role of eric powell (the parallel to stanley tucci), plays the role of the mostly-positive guy who keep julie’s spirits up through her efforts. but unlike tucci, messina’s presence did not leave a very strong memory in my mind after the movie was over.
the plot of the story rests on the parallels between julia’s efforts to publish her book and the chronicles of julie’s ups and downs with the recipes and her blog. julie’s anxiety over whether anyone actually reads her blog, her fight with her husband, the failed interview with a reviewer – all of which lead up to her ultimate success as a blogger and writer – are related in an elaborate manner, but lack the heart that julia’s side of the story so endearingly possesses. and really, the near-last scene where amy adams leaves a pack of butter under julia child’s phots at the museum was a downright put-off – for me.
but this is not to pass any judgement calls on the real julie powell. i do applaud her efforts, and i believe that movies can oftentimes leave an impression that is far removed from the real person.
but all said and done, the movie does fulfill what it set out to – tell the story of two women who followed their heart and used their passion to bring meaning into their lives and as well inspired others along the way. this brings out a very important lesson for those who are still wondering if their passion for cooking/baking is one worth following – if you have it, just pick up your knife/whisk/ladle and battle on. who knows who you might inspire some day?
[*all photos were taken from the official Julie & Julia website]