A review of “Julie & Julia” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: PG-13 for language and mature themes

Run Time: 2 hours, 4 minutes

 

 

My gift of choice is a copy of Julie & Julia along with Julia Child’s iconic 1961 tome Mastering the Art of French Cooking – an offering that never fails to please the my foodie-minded friends. Nora Ephron tackles that gift in storytelling form, combining captivating source materials for a lightweight but enjoyable gustatory romp.  

“Julie” rests heavily on the sprightly charm of its two lead actresses and there’s plenty to go around. Its structure unfurls in overlapping roles – Julia herself (Meryl Streep) as she embarks on a lifelong love of cuisine while in Paris with State Department husband Paul (Stanley Tucci) and Julie Powell (Amy Adams), an unfulfilled government worker in Queens, New York who sets herself a lofty goal – cook every recipe in Julia’s enigmatic bible and blog about it.

A mad task indeed as Julie endeavors to cook five hundred and twenty four recipes in three hundred and sixty five days. Not just any recipes but small directives of perfection from the woman who taught America how to cook and eat.

As Julia circa 1950s and twenty-first century Julie tread their parallel paths there are dramas and joys to propel the narrative with droll and snappy pacing. Both begin love affairs with butter, discover the fine art of under-crowding mushrooms and murder and dismember unwitting crustaceans. Both balance work and marriage; Julia to an adoring audience of one and Julie to a contemporary mate who dislikes the narcissistic bent of a full-time blogging.

Streep is heavenly as Child – crooning and swooning with the legend’s trademark pitch and effervescently thrusting her way through Paris’ Cordon Bleu and hordes of surly French with interpretative sentiment. She and Tucci reprise their onscreen chemistry (“The Devil Wears Prada”) as comfortably as a pair of old shoes. Adams is equally enchanting; quirky, bemused and utterly engaging as the consummate puzzled pixie.

The eats take center stage – smoky pots of Boeuf Bourguignon, perfect plates of Sole Meuniere, creamy Raspberry Bavarians and Canard en Croute are marvelously mouthwatering while the period costumes read sartorially scrumptious.

In the end Ephron doesn’t quite seal the deal – surrendering nuance for fluff and rendering the climax flat as a failed soufflé – but the whole is a tasty confection that goes down with ease. Bon Appétit!