Went to a preview of Julie & Julia last night — doesn’t open until Aug. 7, so yay, lucky me — and all I can say is, if you love food, and if you love words, and if you love words about food, you have GOT to go to this movie.
To be honest, I was a bit nervous going in. The movie, directed by Nora Ephron, weaves together two books: Julia Child’s memoir of the time she spent in Paris alongside her husband, the cultural attaché Paul Child, which is when and where she learned how to cook; and Julie Powell’s memoir of her year-long blog during which she made every recipe in Julia’s seminal cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The movie stars a towering, quavering Meryl Streep as Julia and a mousy, emerging-from-her-miserable-shell Amy Adams as Julie. Like any foodie, I revere Julia, and was ridiculously worried that this would be a crushing disappointment.
Well, I needn’t have fretted because this was, quite frankly, the most enjoyable movie experience I have had in years. It was so good I didn’t even mind that the people behind me kept talking during the movie. At least they were talking about the movie; in fact, they were so into it, they were practically giddy. Pretty funny, actually.
Adams is, as she always is, utterly charming on screen. She has these crazy-huge blue eyes that are so dynamic that you can’t take your own eyes off her even when she’s doing something as tedious as typing. And the supporting cast, including a low-key Stanley Tucci as Paul Child, is terrific.
But everyone is overshadowed — as seems perfectly appropriate — by the gigantic personality of Julia, and by Streep, who is at her very best here. Julia would be very easy to cariacture (see: Dan Aykroyd), but Streep manages to nail her trademark oddities, starting with that peculiarly quavering voice, without ever truning her into a figure of fun.
As you’d expect from Ephron, there’s great insights to be had over women’s friendships, nice period details, especially when it comes to clothing, and some really great use of music. (I especially loved the way they had Talking Heads’ Psycho Killer playing in the scene where Julie has to kill a crustacean or two for Lobster Thermidor. Hi-larious.)
Ephron is always a great writer, but not always a great director, but here she’s really found her style. The movie was laugh-out-loud funny in spots, poignant in others. The food scenes were delicious. And even though Julia died in 2004, this movie has kept her alive, for now and forever. As she herself would say, bon appétit!