Julie and Julia

2009-11-13 10:52
 

What it's about:

In post-WW2 Paris, American Julia Childs (Meryl Streep) takes to cooking lessons and eventually a book called Mastering the Art of French Cooking while living in Europe with her diplomat husband Paul (Stanley Tucci). Many decades and thousands of miles away, bored and unemployed Julie Powell (Amy Adams) sets herself a challenge, to cook every recipe from Julia's now-renowned book over a year, and blog about it. The exercise tests her character and marriage, and brings her closer to her culinary idol.

What we thought:

Many South Africans may be unfamiliar with the real-life Julia Childs, the chef, author and media personality who charmed American TV audiences with her rambunctious and entertaining cooking shows, and is credited with taking the fuss and pomposity out of French cooking and making it accessible to an American audience. Her larger-than-life personality was fortified by her considerable height, and it was this rather American combination that not only set her apart from her more fragile French contemporaries, but pretty much put her in the dog box at the famed Le Cordon Bleu cooking school where she cut her teeth.

In quaint and colourful detail, we learn of Childs' awakening to the power of taste while dining on a simple meal of oysters, sole and wine at a French restaurant. With nothing to do while her husband is at work ("What do you like to do?" he asks her. "Eat!" she replies), she bands together with two French women to write what would become Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The book itself is a 734-page tome that deals with the many pleasures of preparing vegetables, poultry, meats, sauces, desserts, seafood and so much more – at a time when nutritional bugbears such as saturated fat and heaps of sugar were less of a concern. That in itself is an inspiring story, but it's just one half of Julie & Julia.

In a parallel story, Julia Powell loses her job in modern-day New York and moves to a smaller apartment with her husband Eric (Chris Messina) who is fully supportive of her cooking and blogging venture. Her series of blogs ultimately results in the book on which the movie is based: Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen. And what a journey it is, trying to emulate Julia Child's cooking prowess, while keeping her sanity in check and succumbing to Child's philosophy that there is no such thing as too much butter.

And, oh, how sensually indulgent it is to watch these two women take to their dishes with the kind of mouth-watering fervour that will have even the most lay foodie lose their collective biscuit. Oozing with a sensuous riot of colours, flavours and what one can only imagine to be diet-defying aromas: red, plump berries atop luscious chocolate desserts, sizzling roasts, and a demanding boeuf bourguignon dish that nearly pushes Powell to the brink. Delicious and very, very funny stuff.

The performances and director Nora Ephron's light touch are what makes Julie & Julia something truly special. Meryl Streep is a marvel, charming her way into your heart and stomach with her can-do attitude and Childs' trademark warble that is at once spellbinding and deafening. There are shades of sadness to her story (she and her husband never had children, even though she dearly wanted a family) but the tone of the movie is upbeat and quirky throughout. Amy Adams is always a delight, and no more so when she is struggling to cook a live lobster. The only pity is that she and Streep never get to share a scene. Jane Lynch, who is now probably best known to TV audiences as the sinister cheerleading coach on Glee, gets a scene-stealing cameo as Childs' sister Dorothy, who comes to Paris for a visit.

Julie & Julia is probably the feel-good movie of the year, and is tailor-made for anyone who has ever enjoyed a meal in their life. Just remember to take a hanky along – not for your tears, but to wipe away the drool.


Meryl Streep and Amy Adams cook up a culinary wet dream in this delightful true story about a recipe that connects two women across time.

Alexis Kloppers 2009/11/12 3:27 PM
Pity about the wet dream metaphor in the heading.
jason 2009/11/12 7:07 PM
Aggg no, really! This looks like a dreadful waste of time to me.
Robyn 2009/11/13 2:57 PM
Loved the book so have been looking forward to the movie. Shame Jason...not the girl-on-girl action you were hoping for?
Rudolf Buys 2010/01/06 10:10 AM
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What a boring movie! Should rather have watched Smith scores his century at Newlands. Meryl what's up? Time to retire?
Marqui Matthews 2011/11/09 1:09 PM
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Pooh pooh R SA's that stupid 2 watch Cr...............
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