Saw "Julie and Julia" at our new new theater here in Kennesaw, part of a chain called NCG, on Tuesday night last week, in a room crowded with moms and daughters.
Nora Ephron has made some excellent movies in an undervalued genre (comedy), and this is one of her better efforts. The film bounces back and forth between Julia Child's life as a developing cook in Paris, and the life of stymied writer Julie Powell who decides to start a blog in which she chronicles her efforts to make all 524 recipes in Child's book, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", in 365 days. And though this film is ostensibly about two women finding their place in the world (I think I may have actually turned myself off from seeing this movie with that line), it's also about marriage, though highly idealized visions of marriage.
Paul Child (played by Stanley Tucci) is the sainted husband of Julia Child and, in the film, always knows the right thing to say, the most perfect gift to give, and never once loses his temper. Eric Powell (played by Chris Messina) is the sainted husband of Julie Powell, and he, too, always knows the right thing to say, the perfect gift to give, and though he does lose his temper once, it's because he doesn't like that she calls him a saint every now and again. So, in essence, he gets mad because he's too nice a guy. Oh, if only these were the problems married people had. But it's all fine, and it works because there's a specific light, comedic tone Ephron's patented over the years, and she's got it going here too.
But, thankfully, it's not ALL about wedded bliss. There's also a lot of food. Hopelessly outdated food, yes -- unfashionably hearty and reliant on thick cuts of beef and such -- but it's all so beautifully photographed, even the meat jellos look like they might be worth trying. "Julie and Julia" never makes food seem as marvelous or as important as it does in, say, "Big Night," or even "Ratatouille", it does its best and puts the aspics and the boeuf bourguignons at center stage enough to feel like you're watching a serious food movie.
Though I preferred the Julia Child scenes, I was never disappointed to return to Julie Powell's, which was a feat in and of itself considering how much fun it was to watch Meryl be Julia, and how much less fun, comparatively, it was to watch Amy Adams soldier through being Ephron's Meg Ryan 2.0, complete with the short haircut and the pouting and charming crying jags. Amy's a good actress, so she manages to make something interesting out of a fairly blandly written character. And as with any good film, you're left wanting a bit more, so I was disappointed I wouldn't get to see the scene where Meryl's Julia sees Dan Ackroyd's famous SNL sketch for the first time, (in real life, she loved the gory sketch so much she kept a VHS of it on her TV stand), or the scenes where she and Paul come in to a small public television studio in Boston, prepared as army generals, to make one of the first cooking shows ever put on the air. That would have been fun to watch, especially with Meryl and Stanley standing in for the Childs.
But, then again, as many biopics do tend to go on and on, maybe Ephron & Co. have struck upon the best telling of her life with this movie, grabbing up most, if not all, of the important moments of her life for half a movie.