It's called magnetism

Julie and Julia

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


 

            Go with a light heart. You will be rewarded with a grand script, first rate production values, and a good premise – and that’s before the magic even begins. Nora Ephron and Meryl Streep, two women who can turn whatever they chose to pure gol d, have spun a delightful concoction based on two parallel storylines. This is a movie that soars on pure talent.

            The main thrust, of course, is Streep’s interpretation of Julia Child. After a perfect dinner one night with her husband Paul (Stanley Tucci), Julia asks “What should I do?” “What do you love?” he asks in response. “I love to eat,” comes her reply. And that’s it. From that insight forward, she worked obsessively to become a master cook and to compile 524 recipes for the book that would become “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” The first book about French cooking in written in English, it sold wildly. No surprise there since the French readily dismiss both Americans and their cooking.

            The parallel story concerns Julie’s (Amy Adams) decision – 50 years after Julia met Paul - to cook every one of Julia’s recipes over a period of a year. As a young newlywed she struggles=2 0with imperfect equipment and too little space. Amy Adams and Chris Messina, both good actors, suffer only because every time Streep and Tucci disappear from the screen, we wonder what’s going on with them. It’s called magnetism.

            Beyond offering sublime photography of the art of food appreciation, the movie is a celebration of two marriages. Both Julie and Julia married men who embraced their ambitions wholeheartedly. And what a relief it is not to have to consider marital drama. Playing in a low key off Streep’s voluble, crackly voiced Julia, Tucci makes Paul a man of immense dignity. In a memorable scene, Julia is moved to tears when Paul, after a long pause, summons up the perfect adjective for a dish. It speaks to a rare and subtle understanding by a husband of his wife. This elegant man adores his awkward wife, and she adores him.

            You won’t often see so much emotion conveyed by expression and gesture, a great strength of both Streep and Tucci. Their ability to do this fits perfectly with Nora Ephron’s sharp dialogue. Not many words are needed for what she is trying to do. She lets the actors fill in the gaps.

            The chemistry in this film raises yet again the question of what it is that makes the great ones so riveting. It is not a common thing to see both intelligence and raw talent in one person. When that actor has both the stability and flair to stir them together, then the magic begins. Meryl Streep can do anything. It’s that simple. With Nora Ephron applying her enormous talents to everything on the other side of the camera, you have a complex and elegant dish. Julia Child would be proud.


 


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