Nora Ephron’s Julie and Julia (to be released on DVD next week) melds together two disparate tales: Julia Child’s posthumously published memoir of her culinary education, and Julie Powell’s blog-to-book account of a year cooking her way through Child’s encyclopaedic Mastering the Art of French Cooking, V. I & II (co-written with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle).
It should surprise no one that Meryl Streep was the choice to bring the larger-than-life Julia Child to the screen. Of all actors working today, only Streep could hone her voice and mannerisms to echo the unique rolling giggle, the highs and lows, the familiar and beloved songbird voice of Julia Child.
What is surprising: how marvelously Streep captures Child’s essence: the vim, the brio, the joie de vivre and jolly bravado that Julia Child brought to all her public enterprises… and how beautifully the film peeks into the vigor that she brought to private life, as well. Streep’s Julia Child embraces life with a cheeky, boisterous air and a sexy sauciness that extends beyond the kitchen. Rarely has the screen seen a couple as frankly and believably in love as Julia and Paul (Stanley Tucci), her dapper diplomat husband.
Indeed, the whole film is filled with canny casting choices. Watching Jane Lynch and Meryl Streep crowing and groaning and giggling together, you can easily believe them as sisters. Chris Messina plays Julie Powell’s loving but ill-treated husband, and he transforms the thankless doormat role into something both earnest and wryl.
Then there’s the biggest casting trick of all: Amy Adams as Julie Powell. Adams brings twinkle and cuteness to a part that is, frankly, pretty unsympathetic: Julie Powell’s writing voice is blankly self-involved, entitled, and whiny, simultaneously resentful of the task she had set herself and and ignorant of its depths. Amy Adams takes all those attributes and wraps them up into an almost lovable package of spunky determination and colorful failures, bringing a taste of sweetness and a bit of backbone to a shrill, unlikeable character.