Julie & Julia
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NOMINEE:
Actress (Meryl Streep)
Adapted Screenply (Nora Ephron (screenplay), Julie Powell (novel), Julia Child & Alex Prud’homme (novel))

Theatrical Release Date: 08/07/2009
Director: Nora Ephron
Cast: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina

Based on Julie Powell’s book of the same name, “Julie & Julia” is a deceptively thoughtful look at not only the life of Julia Child and how she affected so many home cooks (Ms. Powell in particular), but also how the support of a partner can allow anyone to chase down their dreams.

Playing the iconic Julia Child is the perfectly cast Meryl Streep. An acting icon of comparable status to Child in the cooking realm, Streep dove headfirst into the role and embraced the little physical and vocal quirks that have endeared the Grand Dame of American chefs to generations of food lovers.

What is so refreshing, however, isn’t that we see Streep simply mimicking Child’s public persona but also fleshing her out into a fully realized and three dimensional woman. While the cooking aspect of her life is well known, it was truly a joy to see behind the apron, so to speak, and to get a glimpse of her personal life – most notably with her husband Paul Child (the incomparable Stanley Tucci) thanks to also using Julia Child’s and Alex Prud’homme’s book, “My Life in France”, fittingly about Julia’s life in France.

As a food network junkie, I was excited just to see how Julia Child rose from home cook to culinary icon, getting to see more about her as a woman and a wife was delicious icing on the cake (mmm … cake).

Tucci and Streep pull off the most endearing and loving of relationships and give the film instant heart and sincerity. Their chemistry is perfection and serves as a constant and wonderful treat for the audience. As the film really boils down to the stories of two couples, any deficiencies in the foursome will sink the ship faster than a rocket-powered iceberg (dangerous little suckers). Thankfully, this was not the case.

Bringing the other titular name to life, Amy Adams plays Julie Powell (yes, the author) – a wife in her own right who’s also snagged a saint of a husband (Chris Messina). Having reached a personal and professional crossroads, she decides to challenge herself to cook all 524 recipes in Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in a calendar year, blogging about it as she goes.

While there is a certain celebrity factor in getting that glimpse of Julia Child away from the kitchen, it is no less interesting to see the Powells through the highs and lows of their marriage over the course of the film. The similarities in the two women’s lives keep the story connected but their differences add that certain je ne sais quoi, somehow transforming the film from a simple, fluffy bio-pic into an idyllic treatise on love and commitment.

Writer/director Nora Ephron did a wonderful job of intertwining the two stories, separated by decades, keeping the film’s momentum going and showcasing the talent on display. Combining two books into one film most often would lead to an unwieldy, meandering monstrosity but here Ephron keeps things flowing and shifts the tone of the film only when the script calls for it, not because there’s supposed to be a conflict at the 47 minute mark, resolution 15 minutes later, a bigger conflict 20 minutes before the end and some sappy reunion right before the credits.

While I doubt this will happen (thanks to the release date), I’d love to see Streep and Tucci get supporting actor nods for their roles and to see the ensemble recognized as a whole. If there were first half of the year awards, this would be a tough opponent for much of what’s been released so far.

Simply put, I’m not sure what demographic the film doesn’t appeal to (as long as you’re old enough to drive and lack a Freddie Prinze Jr. Fan club membership). This is definitely a great date movie but also a lovely way to spend an afternoon with a few friends.

You might want to have eaten before you enter the theater because otherwise you might find yourself starving by the end of the film but that’s about the only warning one should have before seeing the film (much like prior to checking out “Mostly Martha” – the original, not the mediocre remake “No Reservations“).

“Julie & Julia” might become a footnote in the annals of 2009 film, but I’ll be sure to remember it and keep singing its praises. A strong 4 out of 5, this is one you’re going to want to see and should be on the short list of recommended films for the year.