"Julie & Julia" Movie Review

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"Julie & Julia" (my 0-10 rating: 7 )
Director: Nora Ephron
Screenplay: Nora Ephron, Julie Powell
Cast: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina
Time: 2 hrs., 13 min.
Rating: PG-13 (brief strong language and some sensuality)

One of the chick-flickiest of chick flicks, with superb intelligence and refreshing respect for its audience's intelligence. Expect to be surprised that you could ever, after the very, very dramatically soft opening sequences, get caught up in this. Effortlessly and unassumingly, leisurely rather than reaching for flash and witty dialogue, "Julie & Julia" disarmingly eases its way into your interest, then into your beguilement.

Writer-director Nora Ephron, adept and canny creator of "When Harry Met Sally ...," "Sleepless in Seattle" "You've Got Mail" and other insightful gems, now dares to go extremely understated as she unfolds two true stories in parallel fashion, neither of them of overtly strong initial appeal except that the immortal Meryl Streep is in one of them. The other story, featuring only the fetchingly pretty and sympathetic personality of the Amy Adams character, is too commonplace and gentle to matter for a bit.

But then, with charming development, the two plots unfold with amazingly catchy confidence. The basic tale, around the great Julia Child and her achievement in the world of cooking, takes off from a familiar train of frustrations for aspiring writers.

The true story bounces back and forth from 1948 to modern times. The early date follows the intrepid, persevering career of Julia Childs (1912 - 2004), the six-foot-two-inch-tall wife of Paul Child (Stanley Tucci), an OSS cartographer-diplomat, as they are posted now in Paris. Her struggle to get her new 700-page cook book, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," published (initially rejected by a major U.S. publisher with a curt "We aren't looking for an encyclopedia") is traced as Paul, with supportive savvy, encourages her. Her eventual well-known success worldwide, attaining an immortality which eventually put some of her pots and pans into the Smithsonian, is the famously known ending.

The film runs a parallel true story of the modern day New York City resident Julie Powell (Amy Adams) as she nears her 30th birthday. Although has a great marriage to a great guy, Eric (Chris Messina), she's very unhappy with their new apartment in Queens and her dead-end job at a government real estate development office fielding irate phone calls.

But she has found an inspiring uplift in cooking, with enormous inspiration by the accomplishments of Julia Childs. Already an adept, imaginative home cook who finds assured success in everything she puts together, her ambition vaults when she looks over the great Julia Childs cookbook. Her husband, noting that a friend of hers has started a successful blog, urges her to create her own on the subject of cooking. She does, but is stalled in following through with it. He's going to have to keep pushing, and he does. Eventually, she decides to create her own plan to cook all of the great Julia Child's 524 recipes in 365 days.

The male characters, typical in the films of most female directors, are rather neglected, especially that of the very underwritten Stanley Tucci. You're expected to like them, and I did. But, especially in the case of Tucci's "Paul," who is portrayed as having little more effect in Childs' life than a good easy chair, there are no hooks to their personalities. Streep, as ever, masterfully executing the quirks and accents of her character, has become an incomparably mesmerizing movie star.

A movie about the undying perseverance of the human spirit in the face of incessant obstacles, this deliberative, quietly ascending treatment will be a fascination for women, perhaps mildly, with begrudging merit, for men.

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Marty Meltz has 1 articles online

Marty Meltz was the sole films critic for the statewide, award-winning Portland (Maine) papers for 30 years when the column was terminated for budget cuts at 12/31/2007. He continues his reviewing on his website at http://www.martymoviereviews.com

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This article was published on 2010/03/29