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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Julie & Julia

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Meryl Streep stars in a scene from the movie "Julie and Julia."
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.
 
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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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog When we suffer, we don’t just come to understand the pain of Christ’s cross more, we come to understand the depth of God’s love for us: that he would endure such pain for us—in our place. We have a God who endured death so we would never have to do so.

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