Jonathan Wenk /SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT INC
Review in a Hurry: Ever try baking or eating half a soufflé? Well, onetime genius Nora Ephron has treated us to half a foodie movie: Two cups of fine aged wine, courtesy of an amazing Meryl Streep, and two cups of air, supplied by Amy Adams. The ingredients fly and culinary disasters go down like flaming Bananas Foster. But does anyone care?
The Bigger Picture: Everybody loves a food picture. You get all the stuff that regular non-action flicks have—romance or yuk-yuks or whatnot—and you also see how Bavarian chocolate comes together. Like Water for Chocolate and Babette's Feast had the recipe all figured out, but Ephron seems to think that we'll do OK with just an appetizer and maybe a sprig of parsley.
Or maybe Ephron really thinks that a story about a blogger, carried by Adams, can hold as much weight as a super-mega-actress playing a legend in modern American culture—and that besotted moviegoers won't notice.
Julie & Julia is the based on the story of two women. One, Julia Child (Streep) is an irrepressible housewife living in Paris while her husband works on assignment for the US government. Eager to keep busy, Child busts into the Cordon Bleu school using little more than the power of her own joie de vivre, masters French cooking so fast that male competitors can say little more than "sacre bleu," and then works her way through years of kitchen testing, rejections and revisions. The result: a food bible that revolutionizes American cooking. Forever.
The other woman is Julie Powell (Adams), a cubicle jockey who hates that her friends are all successful, and everything. Julie is sad that she was once a literary editor at Amherst, and that she, like, once wrote half a novel, but nothing happened after that, and what's she gonna doooo? Well, Powell likes to cook, and no one is paying any attention to her, so she starts a blog.
The goal: Steamroll her way through the masterpiece that took Child years to complete—in 365 days, for the purpose of I have no idea.
If Ephron finds any parity in the tilting that Powell does at this edible windmill, she doesn't share it with the audience. Instead she offers a vainglorious dingbat who—because Powell cribs a career off of Child's genuine achievement—must have tons of similarities with the master. She doesn't. But Ephron does her best to tease them out as the story goes back and forth. Child's husband eats so much rich food he has to take antacids. So does Powell's. It's all so incredibly similar.
The 180—a Second Opinion: People who don't cook will marvel at Adams' stick-to-it-iveness, even after a beef aspic explodes all over her kitchen and a trio of lobsters conspire to return from a steamy grave.
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