Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 32
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
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For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

A VISIT TO HER IDOL’S KITCHEN: Unfortunately Julie Powell (Amy Adams, right), never got to meet Julia Child (Meryl Streep, shown in the picture on the wall). The closest she came was a visit to the Smithsonian Institute’s display of Child’s kitchen. She is shown here posing for a picture being taken by her husband Eric (Chris Messina, not shown) and she leaves a pound of butter under the picture as a tribute to her idol.

Julie & Julia: Meryl Streep Channels Julia Child in a Tale of Two Lives

Kam Williams

Julia Child (1912-2004) is generally credited with introducing the secrets of French cuisine to the average American kitchen via her encyclopedic 734 page opus Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The book, which became a bestseller, was first published in 1961 to critical acclaim thanks to the comprehensive and effortless fashion in which it made French cuisine readily accessible to American cooks.

Less than two years later the exuberant author would be sharing her cooking skills on her own TV show, The French Chef. Thanks in part to her engaging personality, the PBS series turned her into a celebrity.

One of Julia Child’s (Meryl Streep) admirers was Julie Powell (Amy Adams), a married would-be writer who decided to offset the frustrations of her job by undertaking to prepare every recipe in her idol’s classic cookbook within one year’s time. Julie had grown tired of the daily commute from Queens to her emotionally draining job at the Ground Zero reconstruction site in lower Manhattan, especially since most of her friends were already enjoying flourishing professional careers.

At her husband’s suggestion, Julie posted her progress during the year on a blog in which she described the dishes she had prepared along with her own personal commentaries. The website blossomed into a popular internet destination and developed a large number of devoted readers. After an article about her adventures appeared in the New York Times, she was swamped with offers from agents and publishers who were anxious to turn her blog into a book. The book became Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen, and described her culinary feats together with reflections about the effects of the year’s events on her personal life and marriage.

Julie & Julia, directed by Nora Ephron, is a biopic that interweaves events in Powell’s book with Julia Child’s My Life in France, a memoir chronicling Child’s life in Paris where she learned her culinary skills from cooking classes at the famed Cordon Bleu. Meryl Streep delivers an incomparable performance, humanizing the imperious Child, her trademark accent and all, in an alternately playful and vulnerable portrayal.

The film opens in 1949 when Julia and her husband move to Paris, and serves up an array of mouth-watering gustatory delights along with a tenderhearted love story about Julia Child and her adoring, attentive husband Paul Child (Stanley Tucci). The other strand of the picture, set in New York in 2002, also features comestibles as well as a description of the ups and downs of the relationship between Julie (Amy Adams) and her husband (Chris Messina) during her year long project.

Although it’s somewhat disappointing that Julie and Julia never met in real life, each story is thoroughly engaging on its own, and the combination adds up to a charming description of a cultural icon and of a woman who is probably Julia Child’s number one admirer.

Excellent (4 stars). Rated PG-13 for sensuality and brief profanity. Running time: 123 minutes. Studio: Columbia Pictures.

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

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