Julie & Julia
By John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service
Post-World War II Paris and post-9/11 New York are the disparate settings for "Julie & Julia" (Columbia), writer-director Nora Ephron's charming, frequently funny portrait of two women who never met, but whose destinies were both shaped by one of the most influential books of the 20th century.
Meryl Streep stars in a scene from the movie "Julie and Julia."
The volume in question, the 1961 blockbuster Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which revolutionized American attitudes toward cuisine, was the masterpiece of Julia Child (1912-2004), here played to marvelous effect by Meryl Streep.
As the film—which Ephron partly based on Child's memoir, My Life in France, written with Alex Prud'homme—opens in 1949, though Child's future as a master chef, a best-selling author and a fixture on public television lies well beyond the horizon.
Already present, and masterfully conveyed by Streep throughout, are Child's warm personality and endearing eccentricities of voice and gesture.
As her devoted husband, Paul (Stanley Tucci), begins work at the U.S. embassy in Paris, Child discovers the glories of French food, but broods about her future. A veteran of the wartime Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA—through which she first met fellow OSS operative Paul—Child restlessly casts about for a pursuit that will keep her occupied.
When a hat-making class and instruction in contract bridge fail to do the trick, she turns to cooking lessons at Paris' famed Le Cordon Bleu, where she finds herself surrounded by ex-GIs who are none too pleased to have a woman join their ranks.
Fast-forward 50 years or so to Gotham, where Julie Powell (Amy Adams), a low-ranking official with the Lower Manhattan Development Corp.—the agency of first resort for survivors of the 9/11 attacks—finds relief from the stress of her work in the company of her supportive spouse, Eric (Chris Messina), and in the pleasures of cooking.
With her 30th birthday looming and her dreams of becoming a writer going nowhere, Amy, a devoted Julia Child fan, strikes on the idea of preparing all 524 recipes in her idol's most famous work over the course of a single year, and keeping a daily record of the experience with a blog.
Ephron, who also drew on Powell's 2005 book, Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously, whips up a delicious melange of memories, as the two principal characters dig deep for the courage to remake themselves. She also details the ingredients—ranging from passion to patience—requisite for a successful marriage, as Julia and Paul bear the burden of her inability to conceive, and Julie and Eric clash over her seemingly obsessive focus on completing her project.
The film contains fleeting nongraphic sexual activity, a few sexual references, a suicide reference, at least one use of the F-word and about a dozen crude or crass terms. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned; some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
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Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
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