Time: 123 mins.
Academy Award nomination for Best Actress (Streep).
SYNOPSIS: Julia Child's story of her start in the cooking profession is intertwined with blogger Julie Powell's 2002 challenge to cook all the recipes in Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a single year.
BOTTOM LINE: While I had never heard of Julie Powell or her blog/book before this movie, I had read and loved Child's book My Life in France, which documents how she came to adore French food and how that love spawned the creation of one of the world's most famous cookbooks. Since both daunting projects happened not only independently of each other and decades apart, I found the concept of marrying the stories of these very head-strong and outspoken ladies together onscreen to be a fascinating one. The trouble is, as good as Adams is and as intriguing the idea is of Powell's project, her half of the film is just not as entertaining as the one about Julia Child. Streep once again disappears perfectly into her character, bringing Child to life with joy, intelligence and a mountain of charm. The French didn't know what hit them and she sweeps the audience along with her on her journey to discover what would ultimately become Child's true passion – besides her loving husband. Why would we want to spend time with a sourpuss like Powell and wallow in her unhappy life (only Adams innate likability keeps her character from being totally annoying) when we could be experiencing life in the South of France with Child?
Writer/director Nora Ephron really attempts to give Powell's life and the devotion she gave to this initially whimsical project depth, energy and humor and bits of it do really work. Much kudos has to be given to Powell's fortitude to keep the project going, especially when she was not really getting anything out of it but self-satisfaction. Personally, I would have given up during the "Aspic" section since they're hard to make and nobody really wants to eat that anyway. I can even understand her devestation when she discovered that Julia was not only not impressed with what she was doing but thought she was doing it just to become famous using her name. While that certainly did come to pass to some degree, in the beginning there's no way Powell could have known that this project would have struck such a nerve with the foodie community. The other problem with this half of the film is that cooking and blogging are sort of boring to watch. Sure the end result looks good, but watching Adams killing a lobster is only so amusing. Granted, there are many scences of Streep/Child cooking as well, but she's going up against the French establishment (99% men), who fight her success every step of the way, which gives her scenes more intensity and interest, since they're not just about food.
The men in both their lives are sort of religated to the background, though Tucci makes the most of his screentime, sharing an honestly lovely connection with Streep that showcases this couple's decades-long devotion to one another. They shared a very interesting life that one wishes was given more time to showcase. Much credit has to be given to the food stylist on this movie, who made me want to leap through the screen. You could almost smell every dish they looked so good. If you love food, you're going to be highly entertained by this film. Those uninterested in the topic will be less amused.