Julie & Julia
PG-13
Entertainment: +4
Acceptability: +2 1/2

Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina, Jane Lynch. Comedy. Written & directed by Nora Ephron.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Based on true stories of two women from different times each discovering their life’s reason through passion, strength of character and just the right amount of seasoning, the film shows us how and why Julia became perhaps the most famous chef de cuisine of all time, and how her book, The Art of French Cooking, affected the life of a young woman looking for an outlet for her culinary interests. Julie begins a blog chronicling her trials and successes in the kitchen.

Like an artist’s appreciation for Picasso or Pollock, Julie found a kindred spirit in Julia Child. Though this may not have been the intent of the filmmakers, I left the theater thinking how the things we say and do can affect others. We can touch another life simply be being ourselves when we place noble intent ahead of our sometimes ignoble heart.

PREVIEW REVIEW: If I may paraphrase the eloquent line from a love-stricken Renee Zellweger in Jerry Maguire, “You had me at butter.” Both Julie and Julia have found reason in life through the art of cooking. Indeed, the story can be seen as a metaphor for living. And if all the ingredients are lovingly and precisely blended together, a film can satisfy like a fine soufflé. Such is the case here. Food becomes a character in the film and its masterful presentation a simile for life’s struggles and conquests.

We must start with Ms. Streep’s performance. I’m wondering if some critics will see it as over the top, as caricature-ish. When George C. Scott impersonated George S. Patton, he was careful not to imitate the general’s voice. The actor’s vocal interpretation was of a harsher, more baritone timbre than the actual man he portrayed. But what he was doing was capturing the man’s inner essence and strength. His vocal choice was brilliant, as was every aspect of his portrayal. But because Julia Child is so memorable for her vocal inflection and resonance (it completely reflects who she was), it would be a mistake to not mimic her vocal persona. Julie Child was a character bigger than life, and to do her justice one must be daring and go all out. At times Ms. Streep comes very close to reflecting the comic quality captured so hysterically by Danny Aykroyd’s interpretation on Saturday Night Live all those years ago (that sketch is seen in the movie and for my money is still the funniest thing ever done on that series). Meryl Streep may have worried about her interpretation, but she needn’t. It is a fully realized creation. Streep’s Child is warm, funny, and everything we imagined her to be once she proclaimed, “Bon Appetit” and her TV show’s credits ran.

Because of Nora Ephron’s contemplative writing and spirited direction, as well as the skilled assistance of each technical and artistic participant, the film becomes more than a sweet truffle. It also delicately stirs in positive messages about relationships. Here are two examples of successful marriages, both made up of people who love and appreciate the inner person they have wed. Usually in “chick flicks” where the woman is the central character, the menfolk come off buffoonish or loutish. Not so here. They are strong, yet supportive, loving and even romantic. Ms. Ephron presents males in perhaps the best light we’ve seen ourselves this past decade. In an era where countless comedies depict men as sloppy, crude and oblivious to the needs of their women, Ms. Ephron and company bring out the true nature of the male of the species. As Professor Higgins knew all along, “we are a marvelous sex.”

So, is there a fly in this soufflé? Well, the Hollywood political partisanship remains intact. McCarthy is further demonized for no apparent reason than to indict the 1950s as an era dominated by fascist conservatives (a contrary term lost on most members of the entertainment community). At one point, Julie’s boss, upset that she called in sick, says, “If I was a Republican, I’d have fired you.” Whatever your opinion of the GOP, won’t you give me that Tinseltown’s one-sided demonizing of all things conservative is both unfair and insulting to half their paying audience?

Other than this unwise devotion to the “Hey we’re Democrats and proud of it” mantra, the film salutes love and puts fine dining back in the psyche of a generation devoted to all things fast.

Other wonderful films that incorporate the art of food preparation: Eat Drink Man Woman, Babette’s Feast.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Distributor: Columbia Pictures

Summary
Crude Language: One crude comic term for a male body part.
Obscene Language: Around five or six obscenities, mostly the s-word, with one f-word spoken in frustration; and a woman is called the b-word.
Profanity: No misuse of God’s name – are you ready for that!
Violence: Only to an unsuspecting lobster about to be dipped in boiling water.
Sexual Intercourse: There are three or four implied sexual situations, each between a married couple.
Nudity: None
Homosexual Conduct: None
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: None
Drug Abuse: Several scenes feature people drinking and wine is a part of each exquisite meal.
Other: Do not go to this movie hungry
Running Time: 123 minutes
Intended Audience: Mature viewers

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