Cooking is Child's Play
In post war France, Julia Child (Meryl Streep - Mamma Mia!), the wife of diplomat Paul Child (Stanley Tucci), moves to Paris and looks for something to occupy her days. After trying her hand at hat making and learning to play Bridge she finds her passion when she attends a cooking school and ends up writing the cookbook "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". Over 50 years later and Julie Powell (Amy Adams - Night at the Museum 2) is about to turn 30 and is looking for direction in her life as she struggles with a less than demanding job. With the encouragement of her husband Eric (Chris Messina) she sets about working her way through "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and blogging about her experiences.
So "Julie & Julia" is basically two stories intertwined in such a way that we are lead to see parallels between the lives of Julie and Julia. So on one hand you have Julie who immerses herself in cooking and blogging till it becomes and obsession whilst you have the story of Julia who also immerses herself in cooking and writing. As such the movie flicks between the past and present as we watch Julia's story and how she became involved in cookery whilst seeing Julie searching for some meaning to her unfulfilling career, with them both having parellel successes and failues. It is because of this forced synchronization that "Julie & Julia" ends up feeling forced even if it makes it entertaining.
But that feeling forced is just part of a bigger issue with "Julie & Julia" as whilst the story of Julie trying to cook and blog her way through a cook book is interesting especially as it becomes an obsession which threatens her marriage it's not substantial enough to make half of a movie. And at the same time the story of Julia Child and how she came to write such an influential cook book isn't enough to fill up half a movie. That doesn't mean it isn't entertaining but like the forced synchronization the need to create drama and issues to create some sort of events also ends up forced.
Now I don't like to give important spoilers away but in the case of "Julie & Julia" I have to and so if you don't want to know something skip this paragraph. So with these two stories interweaving it naturally leads that at some point Julie will meet Julia, everything about "Julie & Julia" is built in such a way for that to happen. But it doesn't and whilst it is true that Julie and Julia never met it makes the movie feel incomplete, not delivering the satisfying ending you expect. And as such it feels like a let down that when the credits roll what we expect and want to happen doesn't.
Now whilst I have never seen Julia Child and can't say how good Meryl Streep's performance of her is in a like for like way I have to say that Streep is brilliant throughout. Right from the outset Streep creates this character, this woman who almost seems to be permanently drunk with her over the top accent and general fun loving attitude but it works and is one of those cases where you're not watching an actor but this character. As such every single scene which involves Meryl Streep is just brilliant and is part of the reason why the Julia Child side of the movie remains so entertaining despite not actually being that dramatic. And because Streep is so brilliant it means that Amy Adams is over shadowed as Julie Powell, delivering a nice performance which makes this obsessed woman quite loveable but never being anything more than an actress playing a role. And the same goes for Chris Messina as Eric Powell and Stanley Tucci as Paul Child although Tucci is amusing as Julia's very patient and understanding husband.
What this all boils down to is that "Julie & Julia" is a fun movie and genuinely enjoyable especially with Meryl Streep delivering a stunning performance. But it all feels quite forced as if Nora Ephron has tried to find drama from two storylines which aren't in fact that dramatic and also tried to find parallels which aren't always there.