- Released Internationally on 07/08/09
- Released in Malta by KRS on 07/10/09
In an eggshell
Based on two true stories, this mouth-watering film chronicles how American cooking legend Julia Child ended up in the kitchen, and how 21st Century blogging sensation Julie Powell was inspired by her to get her life in order.
Less known this side of the Atlantic, Julia Child is something of an institution over in America. After living in France for many years due to her husband’s diplomatic postings, she grew to love French cooking, and learnt the art to very high standards in order to pass the time. Her love of eating and cooking grew into a book project with French co-authors, because she was shocked to find that nobody had ever published a French cookery book in plain English. She therefore invested all her time and experience into a guide for ‘servantless’ American housewives. The success that followed led to television cooking specials, more books, and celebrity chefs as we know them today.
A sure sign of the times, this film can claim to be the first major release to be based on a blog. I’m assuming you know what a blog is (since you’re reading one now), but back in 2002 they were in their infancy. Julie Powell, newly married and reluctantly moving further from the city centre, was in an emotionally draining cubicle job handling post-9/11 complaints, and seeing her dream of becoming a writer slipping away. After much encouragement from her husband, she hatched the Julie/Julia project, a daunting attempt to cook her way through all 524 recipes in Child’s first book, within a year, and blog about the experience. She felt it would bring discipline and purpose to her life, and it turns out she got the recipe right. What started as simply something to do started attracting an increasing following, and she eventually went on to reach her goal, publish the writings as a book, and be a writer (now also with a film adaptation).
Through the eyes of a child
Meryl Streep, yet again, is excellent. She becomes Julia Child so convincingly, yet she doesn’t let the mannerisms, shrill voice and bubbly character stop her from turning in some fine acting. Child was an immense woman at over six feet, with an infectious laugh and voice that gave her no-nonsense approach such appeal with her audience (you can have a look here). With the help of various clever Gandalf/hobbit-style camera tricks, Streep towers over her co-stars and becomes Julia. The sheer joy she exudes on moving to Paris helps her settle in and love the locals, and this sincere love for the French way of life is what she gave back in her book.
Different time, different place
The film follows the two story lines deftly, and despite them being on different continents and in different centuries the various parallels are highlighted as the two projects take shape. Amy Adams, who co-starred with Streep in last year’s Doubt, portrays Julie Powell and the struggles of her annus mirabilis are intriguing to watch. It is in fact quite a nice surprise that the film manages to be so entertaining and engaging, seeing as half of it is essentially about an average person’s self-serving in-house project. But I guess that’s one of the plus points of blogging – Powell’s thoughts and troubles struck a chord with her unknown audience, and eventually with publishers, and now with cinemagoers.
The most evident and significant parallel between the two stories is the unfaltering support these two woman had from their dedicated husbands. Both marriages appear passionate and respectful, and both husbands are depicted as admirable in almost every way. Stanley Tucci (The Devil Wears Prada, The Terminal) is quietly brilliant as Mr. Child, and Chris Messina (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) is equally admirable as Mr. Powell.
The book was adapted for the screen and directed by one of the queens of romantic comedy – Nora Ephron. The director of lasting favourites such as When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail manages to lift the film from being simply another biopic, and she laces it with so much fun and great food that it’s easy to be swept up in the enthusiasm. Very little goes wrong in these two stories, and there’s very little not to like about these two characters. Just make sure you eat something beforehand, because I sat through it on an empty stomach and it was delicious torture.