In 2002, Julie Powell cooked and then wrote a blog about every recipe in Julia Child’s best seller, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
That’s 524 everything’s-better-with-butter recipes in 365 days. In 2005, Powell’s popular blog became a book and then was re-titled and turned into a paperback in 2006.
Butter is key to much of the comedy in writer/director Nora Ephron’s (Sleepless in Seattle) film about Powell’s book. Her screenplay combines it with Child’s biography My Life in France based on her life in the 1940s and 50s when she struggled to write the now quite famous cookbook.
Bouncing between the two stories, Ephron’s cuisine is clearly undercooked. Amy Adams (Doubt) plays Powell and serves the main dish. Her struggle misses key ingredients causing you to pick at the many courses with your fork and long for more of Meryl Streep’s scrumptious dessert.
Streep does Child and Stanley Tucci (The Devil Wears Prada) plays Child’s diplomatic core husband, Stanley. They bake Child’s story with a precision that makes Julie & Julia one of the year’s best movies.
I'm going out on a limb here — with 15 Oscar nominations and two wins, and 23 Golden Globe nominations and six wins, and hundreds of nominations and awards from other acting organizations — you can argue that Streep is the best actress of all-time. You can also argue that comedy isn’t really her thing. Streep has done 60 movies and TV projects with a resume ranging from ordinary goody-two-shoes characters to psychopaths, to narcissistic bosses and nuns and everything between. In all, that she has never had more fun with a character than in Julie & Julia.
Decked in frumpy 40s era dresses and some extra padding, Streep masters Child’s high-pitched, hilarious, hiccupped harrumps, cranks up the oven and does Child with child-like abandon. Even for Streep this is off the charts.
Those remembering Julia Child from her TV cooking show and from multiple guest appearances on TV talk shows in the 1960s and early 1970s will understand. The rest of you, just enjoy the meal. Acting is rarely this tasty.
Mr. Movie rating: 4 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It opens Friday, Aug. 7 at the Carmike 12 and at the Fairchild Cinemas 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.