wogma rating: Add to 'must watch' list (?)
I recently watched a Saturday Night Live clip of Julia Child’s television cook show, where Dan Aykroyd does a lousy imitation of the chubby, lively chef. I can say this because after having seen Meryl Streep play Julia Child in Julie & Julia, you absorb much of her mannerisms and charm. The film delves deep into the characters of Child and food blogger Julie Powell and makes you fall in love with them.Read more
You know the kind of cook shows that make you want to regret you had some mix veg nothing-ness for dinner? The kind that makes you forget you couldn’t pronounce the French dish that is being cooked because it looks divine? When I first heard of Julie & Julia, I thought the movie would make me feel just that - a nagging concern about where my life is going and why I’m not a successfully chef. Or at least a salivating regret on why I didn’t have something more creative for dinner.
The film is based on the lives of two women - an autobiographical texts by Julie Powell (played by Amy Adams), a hum-drum government employee who takes on the challenge to cook 524 recipes from Julia Child’s book 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking' and Julia Child’s life from her first cooking class to publishing her book. Both women in their own way admit that food saved their lives.
The film draws parallels between the 1950s, when Julia Child (famous American chef, played by Meryl Streep) first started taking cooking lessons in Paris, and the early 2000s when Julie Powell’s life changed with her super taxing challenge. We are made to see the similarities with both their lives even though they belong to different time zones and social brackets. Julia Child moved to Paris with her husband, Paul Child (played by Stanley Tucci) a plush government employee who is supportive of her zest to do something with her life – and not just play a domestic companion to him.
Quite similar to Child, Powell decides her boring government job is pulling her down, especially since her friends have all climbed the ladder to success. She lives with her husband, nonchalant yet supportive Eric Powell (Chris Messina) above a pizzeria in Queens, New York. Her one year challenge, as you witness through the film, lifts up her life to extremes. She writes a blog about her daily accomplishments, and it becomes hugely popular. The cooking, however, is taxing. You are made aware of the pressure mostly because the film keeps cutting back to Julia Child’s inspirational story of how she became a successful chef.
The parallel narratives work well with these two stories, as they stand similar and contradictory in many ways. Both women fight with vastly different demons: Julie with her financial situation and job coming in the way of her aspirations, and Julia with the social mindset against women in Europe in the early 1900s. Women cooked at home, and we see Julia Child breaking that stereotype by standing in a room full of men, and a skeptical tutor, and making her own. Yet both women are searching for the same thing: a validation of their talent.
Meryl Streep as Julia Child is a delight, but of course. You immediately choose your side, when you decide her side of the story is a tad bit more interesting than Julie Powell’s. Amy Adams though, makes Powell’s character a lot more endearing and relatable. Both husbands are shown to be extremely supportive of their wives career, but somewhere down the line, the characters get boring. I would have preferred more refined characters, especially since Nora Ephron (writer and director) decides to delve deep into the personal lives of both women.
The DVD of Julia & Julia has a bunch of really exciting extras. First up is a featurette titled "Secret Ingredients: Creating Julie & Julia", in which we get to hear bits of the real Julie Powell and Julia Child’s niece. We also get an overview of the production, and might I say, you can never get enough of Meryl Streep on screen! She’s such a charm; you just want to keep watching her perform.
A part of me wishes the film focused on making the viewer drool over the food in the film. Most food related shows/movies/books end up making you feel either hungry or inspire you to cook. I felt neither during Julie & Julia, maybe because the focus was on the womens’ trajectory and less on what was being cooked. While the performances are the main straw in Julie & Julia, the film surprisingly doesn’t make you want to cook or eat. It makes you want to sit back and ponder on the women and their achievements. That’s a real win for the film, isn’t it?
This article is by guest author Swetha Ramakrishnan. Swetha Ramakrishnan is currently living and working in Mumbai. She's a self-confessed film enthusiast and can most likely be found talking to anyone and everyone about popular cinema and her love for SRK. Swetha Ramakrishnan also blogs at http://swetharamakrishnan.blogspot.com/.
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