Summer Film Series – Vol. 7, No. 4: JULIE & JULIA
August 8, 2009 at Movies 14, McKinney, Texas
The more I view the work of Meryl Streep, the more I am convinced that she is our greatest living actress. Her talents are undeniable, but in recent years, as she enjoys an unexpected phase of her career, she has become larger than life. She portrays characters with abandon, utterly fearless in her performances and fiercely determined to remove all aspects of herself so that the viewers see only the characters of the stories and nothing of the actor playing them. Streep is brilliant in practically everything she does, and she seems to be having more fun now than ever before. This was never more evident to me than watching her embody the legendary Julia Child in Julie & Julia. She is a marvel. Having watched Julia Child on television in her later years, I had some expectations of what I wanted to see from Streep, but I never dreamed to fall in love with a woman who before had simply been an icon to the culinary world. Streep has transformed my opinions of Julia Child. She has done the very thing every actor should strive toward when portraying a real-life persona: she made me want to know more about Child and her life before the public met her.
The story of Julie & Julia is just as it alludes — the true stories of the two women. Julie Powell is a young woman struggling with her life’s purpose in 2002, and she becomes inspired by Julia Child to the point of creating each of the 524 recipes of Child’s book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and committing to complete such a feat in only one year’s time. As we follow Julie through this adventure, we are taken back to the early 1950s to walk with Julia Child as she sets out to discover her own life’s calling as a French chef. The movie is best when walking with Julia. Streep’s portrayal brings to life a woman who was incredibly joyful, mischievous, determined and overflowing with a love of life. As we witness the birth of the legend, we also are privy to a grand love story between Julia and her husband, Paul. Their romance softens every scene and gives the setting of mid-century Paris an even greater glow than just the vivid landscape can bring. It is through Paul’s eyes that we come to see the beauty of Julia. And in this film, played by Streep, Julia is a beautiful and remarkable woman.
I can’t imagine that many who see this film would not be inspired by it. I am the last person to ever find joy in cooking, and even I was completely galvanized. I wanted to run home and make Julia’s famous bœuf bourguignon! The film is nothing short of a foodie’s heaven. And it is also a testament to not giving up your dreams. Child was near 40 years old when she first attended Le Cordon Bleu school in France and began to truly understand the nature and pleasure of food. The remainder of her life was devoted to this one passion, and she, along with her husband, created a legacy that continues to inspire people half a century later. Julie & Julia is that rare kind of film that envelops you and challenges you and invites you to laugh without inhibition. I cannot remember the last time I found a film so completely joyous from beginning to end, nor can I recall feeling such warmth toward a “character” as I did toward Julia Child. Julie & Julia inspires nothing short of happiness in a way that movies haven’t been able to do in many, many years.
images via Rotten Tomatoes