This Dude Really Enjoyed the Ladies
"Julie & Julia" takes two outstanding actresses, who are entirely comfortable within their own skin and with each other (having worked very well together in the very fine film, "Doubt"), and makes a female buddy picture. The oddity here is that these two women: Julie Powell, portrayed by Amy Adams and Julia Child, played by the magnificently talented Meryl Streep, actually live in different time periods and are very different people, and yet one is drawn to the energy of the other.
Julie Powell was at a creative crossroads in her life. Her ego was consumed in a perpetually state of angst, and Julie felt that the only way she could reconnect with her saddened spirit, and give her life meaning through the creativity of a special project. And that project would become one that included the woman that spoke to her mother's generation, a woman that gave incredible voice to that generation's domesticated woman. Her name was Julia Child.
Julia Child was born in Pasadena, California, in 1912. She grew into a large (6' 2"), athletic women, who was educated back East at Smith College. She served in Intelligence (OSS) during World War II, where she met and later married her husband, Paul Child. In the film Paul was played by a much shorter Stanley Tucci.
Their marriage was remarkable in its visual incongruity, and even more remarkable in the depth of their mutual respect and their abiding love. This near perfect marriage would sustain Julia as she eventually became an enduring success in a world with a very male dominated infrastructure.
Julie Powell was a public employee of New York City, working in the City, living in Brooklyn, and being married to an equally good man, Eric Powell, played by Chris Powell. When Julie's creative ego needed resuscitation, her husband encouraged her to continue her writing talents by constructing a blog on solon.com that communicated her ongoing experiment of recreating every recipe in Julia Child's culinary classic, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," in one year, and writing about each one, each day until experiment's completion. After this one year of devotion to the Child classic, Julie would take stock in her project and re-evaluate its effectiveness.
Understandably, her ode to Julia Child was an unmitigated challenge, sucking all her energy, testing her job and her marriage; however, her husband and friends, who were invited to her multiple dinner parties, were quite enthusiastic about her budding culinary talents. Julia, alone and quiet in her retirement, did not know of Julie Powell's ongoing project.
In fact, the film's treatment of Julia's life begins with her post World War II marriage and continues with her education at Le Cordon Bleu, and the trials and tribulations of first creating her "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," with co-authors, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle and then getting it published. Interestingly, the hard scrabble beginning for Julia Child's celebrity was remarkably similar to the arduous completion of Julie Powell's arduous project. Though these two women were separated by generations, and very different life paths, they were so similar in their passions for food, their love for their husbands which was reciprocal, and their respective interminable struggles to make their indelible marks in this ever changing world.
Director and Screenwriter Nora Ephron took Julie Powell's resultant titular book, and created a dramatic atmosphere where these two fine actresses were able to flesh out these two very normal, but very driven characters, who were ultimately able to make a difference in their own lives, and the lives of others. The film, at 123 minutes, is a success story that spans generations, and is an earnest depiction of two interesting women, although the celebrity of Julie Powell will always exist in the shadow of the enigmatic Julia Child.
For the rest of us non celebrities, we must just enjoy the film of these two industrious and very gracious women so lovingly performed by two of America's best actresses. Bon appetit.
Rated PG13. Released on DVD December 8, 2009.
This post appears courtesy of our sister site, Beaufort County NOW, with their expressed permission.