Pillbox

Julie and Julia follows recipe for success

While it might seem that Julia Child’s cookbooks are among the last things that anyone would expect to change lives or revolutionize self-perception, Julie and Julia is a movie based on such a premise. The movie does contain delicious entrees and desserts and is put together well, with scenes ranging from a flat above a pizza shop in New York City to the sprawling roads of Paris. Initially, some may write the film off as a chick flick, but Julie and Julia is more than a film for fans of the famous chef.

The plot, of course, revolves around food. The film follows the storylines of two different women in two different times: Julia Child (Meryl Streep), when she first arrives in Paris with her husband in the early 1950s, and Julie Powell (Amy Adams), when she moves into a flat just over a pizza parlor in the Big Apple in 2003. Both women, old and young, struggle to find their places in their new worlds: Julia tries her hand at making hats and fails, and Julie watches as all her friends prosper while she is featured in one of their articles as one of those thirty-somethings that “never made it.” Still, both women persevere and eventually find their niche: Julia with her cooking and Julie with her writing. However, it’s hardly easy from there. Julia must contend against male chefs at the Cordon Bleu in her efforts to prove herself worthy of taking the class, and Julie has to split her time between cooking every recipe in Julia’s cookbook to record on her blog and spending time with her husband.
The scene changes between France and America aren’t jarring, though during some down times of the film, the viewer might wish that the transitions happened sooner. The film is carried more by its characters than its effects, but these characters’ relationships and the strains on them are what make watching Julie and Julia so entertaining. The stress on Julie’s husband as her Internet fame grows slowly escalates through the film, to the point where he gets so tired of being edged out of his marriage that he leaves. Likewise, Julia has difficulty coping both with the fact that she and her husband, Paul, must leave Paris and that they will never be able to have a child of their own.

Though the primary focus is on the food and relationships, the movie does lead the viewer to wonder about how today’s world is different from that of the past. Relations between Julie and her husband suffer when Julie starts to put her project before her marriage, a set of priorities alien to Julia’s world. At the same time, when Paul is interrogated about his connections to communism without being allowed to sleep, the audience gets a sense of just how different the world has become.

That is not to stay that Julie and Julia doesn’t have its comical moments. When Julie realizes what exactly goes into the preparation of a lobster, she can hardly believe the task that is set before her. Still, she keeps going. Sometimes the results aren’t always for the best, and wished-for events fail to come to fruition more than once.

Perhaps most intriguing about the film is that, though the expectation viewers have is for everything to work out and end happily, it rarely does. Cooking, like life, has its high points and its failures, ranging from missed opportunities to burnt stews. Even at the film’s conclusion, though the audience is sure that a certain event must happen and that a certain someone must approve, it never does.

What makes Julie and Julia remarkable is that life goes on for the characters. Julie is heartbroken, but she gets over it. Julia accepts that she will remain childless and that nothing can change that. The film, unlike other “based on a true story” adaptations, doesn’t sugarcoat its rough edges; rather, it presents them as unabashedly as the joyful moments, like a medley of different ingredients, and this is what makes it a joy to watch.