I fell in love with Amy Adams all over again last night. I've loved everything I've seen her do, and her role as Julie Powell in Julie & Julia is no exception. I was invited to a sneak preview of the movie last, almost a month before its August release date, and other than the heavy security it was a very enjoyable experience. Can you believe they were wanding everyone on the way in, and we had to return our cellphones to our cars lest we snap a photo? One woman had to argue at length to keep her old-style pager.
If you haven't seen a trailer for the film yet, it melds two stories. The first is how Julia Child (played by Meryl Streep), as a bored diplomatic house wife in Paris, learns to cook French cuisine and writes the cookbook that popularized it for Americans. She and her husband Paul (played by Stanley Tucci) met in Ceylon while working for the OSS, the predecessor to the CIA. He later joined the Foreign Service and was posted to Paris, setting the scene for her future career as teacher, writer, chef, and foodie icon.
The second story is about Julie Powell, a frustrated writer working as a clerk in New York City and living in an outer borough with her husband Eric. They hatch a plan for her to try to cook all 524 recipes in Child's cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in one year and blog her progress. I remember reading the blog sporadically in 2002 and 2003 on salon.com. The remains of it are still online here, although many links are broken and the navigation is a mess. Hopefully they'll restore it before the movie is released. After she completed her marathon the blog was turned into a book and the combined work inspired Nora Ephron to write and direct this movie. I may be mistaken, but I think this is the first instance of a blog becoming a major film.
Nora Ephron is generally seen as a maker of schmaltzy chick flicks, and this may well be another of that genre. I would guess that 85-90 percent of the audience at the sneak preview were women, but that may be a matter of how they chose who to give the invitations out to. The friend who took me got hers from a radio station booth on the 4th of July, but for all I know most of the audience was recruited at Curves. No matter. I'm a sucker for Ephron's romantic comedies, chick flicks or not. I would be embarrassed to estimate how many timed I've seen Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally, and You've Got Mail.
The film alternates between scenes in the two main characters' lives, transitioning very nicely, and ends up in Child's actual kitchen. That kitchen, designed with higher than usual counters by her husband (what's not to like about a 6'2" foodie gal?), was the set for her TV programs for quite a while and is now a permanent display in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. The story is quietly funny throughout, with moments of outright hilarity and little touches like backing Julie's self-described murder of lobsters with the Talking Heads song Psycho Killer. Streep absolutely nails Child - it's like she is channeling her. They must have had to play all kinds of games to make her appear the right height. She's only 5'6". Although casting her against Tucci had to help, since he is only 5'8". Add to the excellent performances a good dollop of food porn, and it's a winner.
It's hard to imagine how they're going to market this movie. It has the feel of an indy film and probably could play well on the art house circuit. But with the big name cast and Ephron at the helm, they may push it as the summer's chick flick alternative to the usual flood of loud crash and boom summer blockbusters. And how will it play abroad? I'm told by friends that Julia Child is not well know in Europe. Maybe Sony just sees it as a huge ad for their Vaio brand of laptops, since they show the logo prominently throughout.
In any case, it's well worth a couple hours of your life to see it. Here's a clip from it: