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This Sunday we spotlight “Julie & Julia”, in memoriam to the late Nora Ephron, since this has become, unfortunately, her last film. New screencaptures and on-set pictures have been added to the image library. The video archive has been updated with three new clips and compilation videos of press interviews and television spots. Production notes and my review after the cut. As always, please share your thoughts on “Julie & Julia” in the comments.
More than anyone else, Julia Child steered American eaters away from the canned, the frozen and the processed and into food that was fresh, flavorful and made with unbridled joy, a wonderful metaphor for approaching life. “When you talk about passion, Julia Child didn’t just have it for her husband or cooking, she had a passion for living,” says Streep. “Real, true joie de vivre. She loved being alive, and that’s inspirational in and of itself.” A half-century later, in 2002, New Yorker Julie Powell was nearing 30, dissatisfied as a writer, and facing an emotionally depleting day job working for an organization devoted to rebuilding the World Trade Center site after 9/11 and helping displaced residents resettle. Spurred to change her life, she decided to cook her way through Child’s masterpiece – 524 recipes in 365 days – and chronicle her efforts in a blog. With the encouragement of her husband Eric—who was happy to devour the fruits of her labors. Julie began detailing the ups and downs of her time-consuming project. Today, blogging is part of the fabric of our lives, but in 2002, Powell was a blogging pioneer. And ultimately the inspiration for Nora Ephron to adapt her book into a film.
It was before I even started writing the script, when Meryl asked, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘Blah, blah, Julie Powell, Julia Child, 524 recipes.’ She went into Julia as we were walking out of the theater. She did her for a full 10 seconds. I think she even said, ‘Bon appétit,’ I thought, ‘OK, look no further.’ Once ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ opened, I knew if I could get her, not only would she be the best person for it, but she would also force the studio to make the film. She was a movie star at age 57 or whatever she is. Meryl believed that in order to capture the essence of the character, you had to believe Julia Child is 6-foot-2. Actually, our ambitions were more modest. We made her 6 feet. We used a whole bunch of fabulous tricks. Everything we could think of. Ann Roth did amazing things with costumes. The performance is not an imitation, it’s more of a habitation. (Nora Ephron, USA Today, April 2009)
“When we first meet her, she and her husband Paul are living in Paris where they’ve been posted after the Second World War, trying to promote all good things American since he worked for the diplomatic corps,” says Streep. “She was very bright, but the expectations for women at that point were not necessarily to have a career and find their life’s work. But Julia was someone who had a relentless appetite and curiosity for all sorts of things, and the food that was made in American kitchens was not that inspired. She was always sort of a gourmand, but when they went to Paris they discovered food as an art form – not merely something we need for nourishment. So she went to the Cordon Bleu and learned cooking from the ground up, just took to it with relentless curiosity and invention.” Streep found a way to avoid caricature in her portrayal, with Child’s height and high-pitched voice often being impersonated.. “My out is that I’m not really ‘doing’ Julia Child, I’m Julie Powell’s idea of who she was,” says Streep. “So while I felt a responsibility to her memory and the legacy of the great work she did, and to the essence of her character, I didn’t feel I was replicating her.” When it came to casting Julie Powell, Ephron wanted an actress who could embody a young woman’s insecurities and emotional blow-ups. She knew Amy Adams was up to the task, but she also met another major requirement for the writer/director. “Among the many things I liked about her was that I believed that she was smart enough to be a writer,” says Ephron. “And she’s funny.”
“Julie & Julia” was met positively by critics and audiences alike, winning Meryl Streep another Golden Globe as Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy and earning her a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination and her career’s sixteenth Oscar nomination.
To my own surprise, I found “Julie & Julia” a very entertaining and beautiful film. Watching Meryl slipping into Julia Child’s persona and astounding to watch. The film’s plus is that Julia is shown through Julie’s imagination, so it gives all characters the freedom to entertain, while sticking to the actual facts and fights of her life. Meryl’s and Stanley Tucci’s scenes are among the most entertaining and I found Meryl’s scenes with Linda Emond (who plays her friend Simone Beck) very well done as well. Many critics have dismissed the Amy Adams scenes to be the weak link of the film. I cannot understand this. Her storyline may not be as funny as the Julia Child story, but it’s a very charming portrait surrounded by good supporting players and an admirable acting performance by Adams, who proves, once again after “Doubt”, that she might be her generation’s best actress. For Meryl, it’s another classic performance. “Julie & Julia” is very recommended.