On paper, it’s enough to send all but Nora Ephron’s target audience running for the exits, but Julie & Julia does have a certain charm.
It’s a hard sell, but here goes… Nora Ephron’s joint biopic of the '60s champion of French food in America, Julia Child (Meryl Streep), and the noughties blogger who used Child’s famous recipe book to reinvent her life, Julie Powell (Amy Adams), is… Anyone still reading?
On paper, it’s enough to send all but Ephron’s target audience running for the exits, but Julie & Julia does have a certain charm.
The problem is that it doesn’t really open itself out to anyone who’s not familiar with its subjects – that’s you, non-Americans! Child is like Delia, an adored chef from the old days when cocking up an omelette on TV didn’t mean losing a Michelin star. Buxom and possessed of a voice like a pissed soprano, Child trilled her way into the hearts of Americans by introducing them to the joys of buttery French delicacies.
Powell is the modern New Yorker who decided to cook all 524 recipes from Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a single year, blogging all the while.
Apparently, they’re two kindred sprits united by their love of good fodder and doting husbands. But in reality this dual romance proves that Ephron’s dexterity now lies with older characters. Powell neurotically recounts her woes to her laptop à la Carrie Bradshaw (but she eats), and, with her bland boyfriend, is just dull.
Conversely, Child comes across as loopy but sharp, seeking intellectual stimulation rather than solace in her cooking. And with Stanley Tucci as her spouse, her story is also touchingly romantic – after years of marriage, these two clearly still have the horn for each other.
Child’s story alone wouldn’t sustain a film, but fleshed out to two hours with Powell’s turning-30 crisis, it’s too flabby. As for the food, it’s not flabby enough – it looks good but doesn’t reach the dizzying food-porn heights of Babette’s Feast or Eat Drink Man Woman.
Julie & Julia seems satisfied to fall short of its potential – whether as an insightful romantic comedy or an exploration of food lust – relying on Streep to carry the film with her witty turn as Child.
Despite getting the big names, Ephron’s a bit old hat these days.
More cheese than your local fromagerie, but Streep blows Adams out of the water and raises some laughs.
Naff as hell but amiably amusing.