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JULIE & JULIA

SYNOPSIS:
In 1948, Julia Child (Meryl Streep) is just another American woman living in France, accompanying her husband, whose job has brought them to Paris. With her indefatigable spirit, she yearns for something to do, and is drawn into the world of French cuisine, through a series of classes. She soon masters the culinary arts and writes a book aimed at American women who have aspirations but no access, which she gets published after some knockbaks. Fifty years later, Julie Powell (Amy Adams) is stuck in her life. Pushing 30, living in Queens, NY, and working in a cubicle as her friends achieve stunning successes, she seizes on a seemingly insane plan to focus her energies. Julie decides to spend exactly a year cooking all 524 recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking (which Child co-wrote with Louise Bertholle and Simone Beck) - and write a blog about her experiences.

Review by Louise Keller:
Warning: do not watch this film on an empty stomach. Chances are, it might reduce your enjoyment and appreciation of a film that elevates cuisine to a status of joyous compulsion. Two very different women, living in different countries 40 years apart have a meeting of minds through their passion for cooking in Nora Ephron's screen adaptation, Julie and Julia. It's a scintillating journey in which we flit back and forth in time, entering the worlds of blogger Julie Powell (Amy Adams), and her idol, food author Julia Child (Meryl Streep) as they both aspire to their culinary goals.

It is Paris, 1949 when Streep's Julia tries her hand at designing hats and playing bridge to pass the time, before opting for her raison d'Ítre - food. Who cannot relate to Julia enrolling in the all-male Cordon Bleu Cooking School, crying buckets as she practises chopping mountains of onions? Her passion for that scrumptious sole menuiere in the opening scenes is only matched by her relationship with her adored (and adoring) husband Paul (Stanley Tucci, outstanding). Over the years we have been privileged to see many characters created by the great Meryl Streep. Her Julia, with the mannered high-pitched voice and exaggerated jocular manner is a revelation, when she could easily be a caricature. It is art indeed to create a character with over the top eccentricities, but to keep her real and Streep infuses Julia with genuine warmth. Her quest to become a published writer ('you are not a writer until you're published') becomes our own.

When nothing is sure, it is comforting to know if you beat chocolate, sugar and egg yolks together, it will get thick, says Adams' Julie, as she rids herself of her day-job work frustrations when she gets home to the kitchen. Her apartment comprising 900 square feet above a pizza shop in the wrong part of New York may not be her dream, but the man beside her - husband Eric (Chris Messina, excellent) is. Giving herself a purpose of recreating 524 of Julia Child's recipes (for servant-less American women) with a self-imposed deadline of 365 days, Julie starts cooking and writing her blog, sharing her triumphs and failures with her readers. Butter is whipped into submission and heavenly flavours are created as easily as the boeuf bourguignon is cremated. We are there for the ups and the downs, when food fails, tempers flare and relationships quiver. How can we forget the moment when Julie ('lobster-killer') and the crustacean lock eyes before it is immersed in boiling water? Adams, appealingly vulnerable, has enough charm to fill recipe books and the fact that her project becomes the sole indicator of Julie's self-worth is not lost on us.

Intertwining Julie and Julia's lives seamlessly, Ephron does everything right in this ode to the art of cooking. It's warm and funny, involving and satisfying and whets the appetite as only a gourmet meal can.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
An ode to food and an ode to Julia Child, Nora Ephron (best known for her best works, Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail) still manages to avoid overdoing the adoration by undercutting all the adulation and respect with some astute observations - both cinematically (what we see) and by controlling the screenplay. It's a delicious, irresistible film whose primary exuberance and pull is created by the combined forces of Meryl Streep and Amy Adams - their second pairing after Doubt, in which they also hit the acting jackpot. Meryl Streep's wonderful creation of Julia Child is so infectious and so tangibly real we cannot see her acting. Streep has found the perfect pitch for this character, a unique, slightly eccentric yet altogether grounded woman whose passion for food and cooking is reincarnated in Nigella Lawson, perhaps.

Although created as a fusion of two bios, the film has the tone of a single, holistic work, which never struggles to tell the two separate but joined stories - joined at the soul, I'd say. Where Streep's Julia is a product of the 40s and 50s, Adams' Julie is a child of the internet age, blogging her way to recognition. Where Julia's struggle was with old world publishers, Julie's is with the modern world. But both women had supportive husbands and a dedication that would not waver - and several challenges to overcome.

Stanley Tucci is a delight as Julia's Paul and Chris Messina is terrific as Julie's Eric. Neither man surrenders any masculinity in the way they behave - indeed, they strengthen it. As Ephron unravels this story of parallels across time, she ensures that there is no schmaltz and no false sentimentality. It's an accomplished, mature work that is both informative and entertaining, touching on several other issues along the way - as all lives must.

And if you think cooking is 'just cooking' you are obviously still a grasshopper; food and cooking can and do change the world. Food has often paved the way for cultural exchange and carved a path of understanding between people. (Life's too short for bad food...) But I digress - the film doesn't go there. It stays in the kitchen, with four characters whose lives are changed by cooking. No, by the love of cooking, an action that finds its completion in satisfying others.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

JULIE & JULIA (M)
(US, 2009)

CAST: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina, Linda Emond, Helen Carey, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Jane Lynch, Joan Juliet Buck,

PRODUCER: Nora Ephron, Laurence Mark, Amy Robinson, Eric Steel

DIRECTOR: Nora Ephron

SCRIPT: Nora Ephron (books by Julie Powell and Julia Childs with Alex Prud'homme)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Stephen Goldblatt

EDITOR: Richard Marks

MUSIC: Alexandre Desplat

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Mark Ricker

RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 8, 2009







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