Not your usual summer blockbuster, but a delicious, frothy dessert almost entirely devoid of disastrous conflicts, a feast for the eyes and the heart. In other words, a feel-good movie.
Nora Ephron adapted her script by borrowing a bit from each of the two title characters' books and came up with a light-hearted yet illuminating pair of true stories with a neat conjoining between the lives of the two women who lived decades apart.
Amy Adams is Julie, a contemporary resident in a Queens, NY, walk-up with her husband (Chris Messina) shortly after the Twin Towers disaster. She works in a menial, depressing position recording complaints from people suffering due to the disaster, but at home finds solace in creating good meals and a daily blog about her attempt to recreate every recipe in Julia Child's cook book in a year.
Meryl Streep portrays Julia Childs, a 40-year-old virgin who discovers love, sex and what was to become her most favorite joy - cooking & eating - decades earlier, when her diplomatic husband (Stanley Tucci) brings her to Paris. Overcoming all obstacles, she learns to cook French style and then seeks to publish a cook book in English for Americans to enjoy.
Aside from their love of French cooking, the two women share little in common. Julie is a product of her times, young, enthusiastic, likable and content within her mid-class urban existence. She approaches her gustatory creations with a mix of love, tenderness and, sometimes, trepidation. "I'm sorry," she says to the lobsters she is forced to drop into boiling water.
Julia, on the other hand, is far more earthy in her approach to food. Tasting one work of art freshly done, she says, "Ooh, it's like a hot cock," and bites with relish into it. Gradually, we begin to know her for more than her recipes and god-awful voice - that exceptionally tall woman (actually the shortest in her family) coming from humble beginnings and taking her devil-may-care attitude right into her social life among diplomatic people - much to her husband's amusement. Nothing stops her; she plows energetically into everything she encounters, from confrontations with her teacher to hassles with publishers. "It's going to sell a million copies and change the world," she says bluntly & confidently. (She actually completes two books, the cookbook and "My Life in France.")
Ms. Streep has wrapped herself in her character with unbelievable acceptance; it is one of her finest recreations to date. Amy Adams becomes a charming foil to the woman she so admires - less forceful and yet subtly confident as she turns her daily blogs (now rolling into electronic fame) into a book about her trials & errors in emulating her icon. The men - Tucci & Messina - are equally good, sharing in their spouse's accomplishments without relinquishing their stature as proud husbands.
Credit goes to writer/director Nora Ephron, who returns after some lesser works to what she does best: tell a charming, humorous, tender love story from the distaff point of view - as she did with "Sleepless in Seattle." She has developed a labor of love, augmented by Stephen Goldblatt's camera work, especially in colorful atmospheric American and French locales, and by Alexander Desplat's equally appropriate musical score. The movie will never rise to the level of a "serious" movie, and yet it's just what is needed for two hours of a summer afternoon in the dark and for anyone who shares Ephron's tribute to good cooking.