From the premise, Julie & Julia sounds like an interesting idea. It’s a film based on the book and blog by Julie Powell and the autobiography My Life in France by Julia Child, the woman who taught Americans how to cook French food. It’s also written and directed by Nora Ephron, writer of When Harry Met Sally, who made millions of people believe in love, as well as making the line “I’ll have what she’s having” memorable for reasons entirely unrelated to food.
Julie (Amy Adams) works for an insurance company dealing with claims in the aftermath of 9/11. Her friends are vacuous and self-obsessed, and Julie fails to find a meaning in her life or theirs. Her one certain skill: cooking. She vows to make every single receipe in Julia Child’s (Meryl Streep) seminal work Mastering the Art of French Cooking, chronicling each one in her blog. The story is told in two different timelines, those of 1940s France and 2002 New York. The 1940s segments tell how Julia Child found meaning in her own life by mastering French food and doing more than just learning to cook, but to integrate to life in Paris.
Once you can get over Meryl Streep’s accent, the film manages to glide easily between the timelines. The sections are shot in different ways, the pace being noticably different in each segment; New York being coloured and photographed in a different mood to the mannerly, stylish Parisian lifestyle. Surprisingly it is the writing and character development that really hinders the picture. Meryl Streep cannot be faulted, nor can the majority of characters in the Paris timeline. Julie, however is a self-centred and neurotic loser, and not in any charming or likeable way. She becomes the most self-centred character in the whole film, and just when you wonder if anyone will challenge this fault, they do, but only to resolve nothing.
Julie & Julia aims to be an inspiring film, based as it is on two true stories. Julia Child is a well-rounded and likeable character, and her development makes the film seem like an interesting biopic. Julie Powell’s scenes, though, bring the film down to the depths of throwaway romcom, and by the time the film ends, you’ll leave wondering how many times Julie says the name “Julia Child” and asking questions about the gaping and unnecessary plot developments, with particular emphasis on the occasions where the film believes its audience won’t notice such sloppy deviations.
In a nutshell: One half (literally) of this film is insightful. The other half is just disappointing.
Released 11th September
Cast Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci
Director Nora Ephron