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hgsmoth 05-15-10 04:22 PM

Julie & Julia

I could spend a full day at Meryl Streep’s feet thanking her for being an actress. I could spend a subsequent day thanking her directors for convincing her to sign on and play roles so methodically that the actress just seems to melt away. With Julie & Julia, Nora Ephron brings us a delightful, feel good film - due in no small part to a fabulous cast and pitch perfect acting.

Julie & Julia tells the stories of two women, separated by space and time, who are sick and tired of their mundane lives. Julie (Amy Adams) is an average modern day New Yorker about to turn 30. After giving up writing her novel, she works a dead-end job answering phones for a government agency and longs to be more than “just a person in a cubicle.” Her refuge is in food; she comes home and cooks spectacular dinners for her husband.

How does a failed novelist/foodie escape boredom and add spice to her life? Start a blog about cooking so you can write about your true passion and be your own “publisher.” Julie takes her husband(Chris Messina)'s advice and challenges herself to cook every recipe in her idol(Julia Child)'s cookbook in one year and countdown the progress on her blog.

You can’t help rooting for Julie, whose social life beyond the cubicle is defined by cobb salad social lunches with pompous friends who demean her secretarial job and grab breadsticks out of her mouth. Adams hasn’t mis-tepped once since her star-making turn as Leonardo DiCaprio’s finance in Catch Me if You Can. Her comic vulnerability is a sheer joy to watch. She’s a relatable movie star – not intimidatingly beautiful, and brings an honesty and self-deprecating humor to every role she takes.

Ephron blesses us with a fantastic dual-plot that oscillates between following Julie’s challenge and watching Julia Child’s early struggle to become a chef. Before she pioneered American French cooking, Child was just the wife of a diplomat who pondered hat-making so that she would have something “to do.” Because she loved eating French food, why not learn how to cook it? Meryl’s Julia is the laughing stock of the Cordon Bleu in Paris before she proves herself a worthy competitor to her male G.I. classmates chopping onions faster than them and flipping pancake-like eggs over in a pan.

Julie nearly loses her job and her husband when she skips work over recipes gone wrong and throws tantrums in the kitchen. Julia gains the respect of fellow chefs and aspiring cookbook authors who ask her to sign on and help them write a French cookbook for everyday housewives. Julie begins to experience success as her blog becomes the 3rd most popular and both women find themselves gaining acknowledgement where it’s deserved.

If not for any other reason, go see Julie & Julia to witness Streep’s 16th attempt at Oscar. She flawlessly delivers Julia’s over-the-top voice, and with every awkward sway of the upper body to and fro as Child, Streep brings to life a woman very much at ease with herself (and her 6’2’’ frame) and a talent for something that was quite laughable in the 1950’s.

This film is strongly backed by supporting roles, including another stand-out performance by Stanley Tucci (Paul Child). Both Tucci and Messina are fantastic at playing the real doting housewives as they support their women while they embark on soul-searching journeys.

This isn’t a romantic comedy, folks. But there’s lots of love to spread around. Yes, Julie and Julia are both nurtured by loving husbands at home. But in the end, it is the love from within (yuck, I know), stemming from self-discovery and accomplishment that warms the heart here. Julia and Julia, melted nicely together like their love for butter and devotion to learning to bone a duck, show us that it’s worth your time to pursue what you love to do. Is there any message better?

-Hillary Smotherman

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