Friday, August 21, 2009

A Tasty Portrait Of Two Great Marriages

"Julie and Julia," writer and director Nora Ephron's interlocking story of Julia Child (Meryl Streep) and a New York writer, Julie Powell (Amy Adams), who spent a year in 2002-03 cooking and blogging her way through Child's classic Mastering The Art Of French Cooking, is also a paean to great husbands. Stanley Tucci as diplomat Paul Child and Chris Messina as Eric Powell empower their wives and don't recoil from their strong emotions.

Men may be recoiling from "Julie and Julia." At the Anaheim Hills, California showing Kathy and I attended, women predominated by a ratio of three to one. Too bad. It would be a great resource for marital (and premartial) counselors trying to teach couples what mutuality actually looks like. In a short, touching scene, Julie learns that her sister is having a baby. Her joy turns quickly to anguish; she and Paul never had children, though the movie doesn't reveal why. Tucci comforts her gently and wordlessly. Later, when her cookbook is rejected by a publisher, he says, "F--- 'em." Couples who fail to support one another during everyday crises: All too common. Couples who stand united again the maelstrom of a chaotic, sometimes unjust world: Priceless.

World historical events enliven without overwhelming the parallel stories. Julie Powell worked with survivors of Sept. 11, while Paul Child had a brush with Joe McCarthy's witch hunt. For Julie, the cooking project is therapy after long, dispiriting days. Though he successfully dodged McCarthy, Child finds himself wondering what his career has really added up to, which enables Julia to be the comforter.

Tucci and Streep have better chemistry than Adams and Messina, not surprisingly, since one of the movie's narratives is how Julie masters the art of being as easygoing and upbeat as Julia. Streep's relentlessly cheerful Julia Child grew on me. At first, she sounded like Dan Akroyd, whose famous Julia Child skit from SNL's glory days was wisely featured in the movie. By the end, you're saying, as usual, that she's a genius, especially when she's turning on postwar Paris with her smile. Adams, whose only scene with Streep is pictured above, admirably portrays an anxious 21st century American with ADD. Her best bit of ensemble acting is over a lunch with three narcissistic, greedy girlfriends, a "Sex And The City Goes To Hell" moment that Julie transcends, like Carrie, by getting her book and movie.

1 comment:

Leanne said...

And don't forget the wonderful scene where Julia was practicing her onion chopping...