Published Aug 07, 2009Talk about chewing up the scenery! Meryl Streep mows into her role as expat epicure turned master chef Julia Child with such gusto the character's famous joie de vivre fills the theatre like the wonderful aroma of a great meal. Stanley Tucci (as steadfast husband Paul) brings great good humour; their playfulness and companionship as characters and as actors is palpable.
Alas, the otherwise terrific Amy Adams doesn't fare so well, due to a muddled script and the occasionally leaden dialogue handed to her by writer/director Nora Ephron. Adams plays Julie Powell, a real-life struggling writer whose blog chronicling her attempt to cook her way through Child's epic Mastering the Art of French Cooking became first a web smash and then the book upon which Ephron's screenplay is based.
The film intercuts the story of Julia in Paris in the '50s, attending the famous Cordon Bleu cooking school as its first female American student, and Julie struggling as a writer and a cook confined to a cramped Queens apartment. Ephron is clearly trying to draw a parallel between two women who find themselves, and are saved by, their epic culinary efforts. But Ephron saddles Julie with a neurotic attachment to Julia Child as hero figure, a choice both unnecessary and unfortunate, since it undermines the likeability of Adams' character and knocks some stuffing out of what was ultimately Julia Child's most meaningful and endearing message: that in the kitchen, as in life, one should simply dig in and have no regrets.
Ephron could have trimmed 20 minutes of empty calories (even if it meant losing the fantastic Jane Lynch in a pointless cameo as Julia's sister) and come out with a meatier film, but why quibble? If you like to eat, and you like to cook, and you like great acting, you'll have a delicious time, even if you do leave the cinematic table feeling a little overstuffed. (Sony)