In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free,
While God is marching on!


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Movie Review: Julie & Julia

If you love to cook, this movie is for you. If you love to eat, this movie is for you. If you love to write, this movie is for you. If you're simply passionate about anything or anyone, this movie is for you!

It's called Julie & Julia, and Melany and I caught it over this past weekend. I hadn't even heard of the film until I saw a commercial for it during a TV movie Melany was watching Thursday night. She showed some interest and I nobly offered to go see it with her, as a birthday present. It looked like a thoroughgoing chick flick, and I didn't really think that I would get that much out of it. But I did, in spades!

Here's the intro to the film from Internet Movie Database:
Based on two true stories, Julie & Julia intertwines the lives of two women -- master chef Julia Child [played by Meryl Streep], who arrives in post-war Paris with a passion for food, and modern-day frustrated secretary Julie Powell [played by Amy Adams], who decides to cook her way through Child's classic cookbook -- who though separated by time and space, are both at loose ends... until they discover that with the right combination of passion, fearlessness and butter, anything is possible.
To be more specific, Julie commits herself to prepare every one of the 524 recipes in Julia's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in 365 days. She intends this initially as a release from the relentless pressures of her temp job with a 9/11 claims agency, but ultimately as a way to make herself follow something through to the end, and hopefully grow in the process. An aspiring writer with one half-finished novel to her credit, she also decides to write a blog about the experience (called The Julie/Julia Project; read it here), and labors through weeks of her Herculean task waiting for a comment (other than her mother's) to indicate that anyone at all is paying attention. Through it all she has only her easygoing, encouraging husband for moral support. Despite repeated setbacks, distractions, and disappointments, she finally completes the challenge she had set for herself and emerges with greater confidence and conviction of self-worth.

Through flash-backs and -forwards (which are clear, logically placed, and not confusing), Julie's story is woven with that of her inspiration Julia Child, who finds herself in post-war Paris with her diplomat husband Paul (played masterfully by Stanley Tucci), and nothing much to do. With his gentle encouragement, she finally decides to indulge her fondness for food by taking some cooking classes at the prestigious Cordon Bleu. Despite some amusing (to others) early foibles, she surprises her instructor, classmates, and herself with remarkable aptitude and enthusiasm for the work, and the beautiful loving relationship between her and Paul grows ever deeper. She makes friends with a pair of "real" French cooks (chefs?) who ask her to help them "Americanize" the cookbook they're working on, and she eventually becomes the driving force behind what would become, years later, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The viewer shares with her and Paul the disappointments, trials, and ultimate triumph of Julia's struggle to keep the cookbook project going and get it published. The final scene between them is as amusing and touching as I've ever seen in a movie.

Julie & Julia is beautifully filmed, dripping in warm, rich colors befitting a tribute to great food and great cooking. You feel personally present in the Paris buildings, streets, homes, shops, and restaurants where most of the Childs' story takes place. The kitchens depicted in the film--even the tiny, worn-out one in the Powells' walk-up apartment--are classic and inviting. The food being prepared and savored before your eyes is beyond description; you can practically taste it through the screen. Go see the movie BEFORE dinner; you'll enjoy your meal, whatever it is (ours was hamburgers and fries--at least they were French), that much more with such a magnificent "appetizer"!

But this film is about much more than just food. It's almost as much about the trials and tribulations of writing, blogging, and publishing--things I can relate to quite personally! On a deeper level, it's about the search for meaning, confidence, and fulfillment in one's life. Perhaps without intending, it's also about love--of food and cooking, of course, but especially about love between men and women who are "there" for each other through every moment of adversity, doubt, discouragement, and elation. The film makes clear that neither Julie nor Julia could have accomplished what they did without their patient, encouraging, loving spouses (the relationship between Paul and Julia Child, which began in middle age, is depicted with special warmth and grace, and should become a cinema classic).

So, enjoy Julie & Julia with your significant other and a hearty appetite. You won't go away hungry!

P.S. Be forewarned: there is one gratuitous "F" word in this film, and a couple of "S" words. I simply don't understand why such things are done in a movie like this. Is Hollywood so terrified of PG and G ratings (Disney excepted) that they have to make an otherwise beautiful film inappropriate for viewing by anyone under age 14? Are they afraid that adults won't think it's a "serious" movie unless it contains obscenities? Is foul language what makes something "sophisticated"? Anyway, if you can handle this relatively modest amount of bad language, Julie & Julia is still delicious!

1 comment:

It's A Wonderful said...

Ooooh, Mom and I are going to see this movie together. I can't wait! I love Meryl Streep, ever since I saw Sophie's Choice (3 times) and The French LT's Woman. She's amazing...and Julia Childs? She was wonderful and so humorous...thanks for the review, Tom!