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Summer is supposed to be the season of the blockbuster, but this year, it’s been more lackluster (see the mediocre “G-Force” or the simply awful “Transformers”).
To the rescue rides an unlikely hero, a charming, funny and clever film with outstanding scenery, costuming, music, writing and nothing short of brilliant acting – “Julie & Julia.”
But this column isn’t supposed to be about the usual trappings of Hollywood; instead, it’s supposed to be about the trappings of the heart and soul.
“Julie & Julia” does indeed capture both heart and soul in a film about finding joy in the finding of one’s purpose and calling in life. The movie also casts aside the typical plotlines for female characters in film – overcoming divorce, escaping an abusive spouse, navigating the dating world, struggling through single parenthood, climbing the corporate ladder against the sexist stream, etc. – and actually gifts the heroines with supportive husbands that encourage and uplift their wives in a powerful portrayal of the way marriage was actually intended to work.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church,” Scripture tells us, “to present her to himself as radiant.”
The ladies in “Julie & Julia” are radiant – in part because of their own virtues and in part because of their respective, exemplary marriages. The combination is a recipe not only for a good movie, but also for an affirmation of the institution of marriage itself.
The film portrays two ladies – Julie Powell (played by Amy Adams) and Julia Child (played by Meryl Streep) – who, in separate times and separate places, experience a nagging longing for fulfillment in their too ordinary lives.
Julie Powell is a cubicle-working woman trapped in the cement jungle of New York City, but more trapped by her life-sapping job.
Julia Child is the childless wife of a diplomat moved to Paris after World War II, looking to find something with which to fill her empty days.
Child’s husband, however, after she has tried and failed in a pair of unfulfilling pursuits, asks her the fateful question, “What is it you really like to do?”
Her answer? “Eat!”
From there, we are treated with watching the journey and the struggle that Julia Child endured on her long road to becoming a cultural cooking icon (yes, it’s that Julia Child, played by Streep in a uproarious yet flattering imitation of the original television star).
At each step, as she grieves her inability to have children, as she suffers setback and disappointment, as she takes the blows of critics and naysayers, as she celebrates the publishing of her now best-selling cookbook … Julia Child’s husband is there. An adoring, affirming, loving man, Paul Child (played by Stanley Tucci) is a source of strength in times of weakness and a partner to each joy and sorrow. By the end of the film, the audience grows to love this man, if only for the love that he shows her.
Nearly 50 years later, Julie Powell, a frustrated aspiring writer who loves to cook in what little spare time she can find, is likewise encouraged by her husband that she is a writer, that she does have something to contribute.
Together the Powells draft an idea that Julie learn to cook by learning from Julia herself and that Julie should write a blog about the experience – 365 days to cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s famous cookbook.
The film then interposes the two stories of Julie and Julia a scene at a time, as the ladies discover – their faithful husbands behind them all the way – the joy of fulfilling a sense of purpose. Julia writes a cookbook that changes the world. Julie writes a blog that changes hers.
“Both of us were lost,” says Julie at on point in the film, “both of us were saved by food somehow.”
It appears that French food may have saved the summer as well.
“Julie & Julia” departs from killer robots, teenage witches and the usual Hollywood fare to offer a far more delicious summer treat than anything on the menu since “Up.”
The movie also departs from Hollywood’s depressing string of divorce flicks, dating dilemmas and single mom sob stories to instead portray marriage as a joy. As a foundation of a fulfilling life.
In a way, “Julie & Julia” portrays marriage like the finest of foods: It’s comforting, life-giving, live-saving, sexy, fun, sometimes salty, sometimes sweet. But enough of my metaphors, bon appétit!
- “Julie & Julia” contains several instances of profanity, though it is placed intelligently within the script for effect, not randomly scattered by actors unable to emote without it.
- The film contains a few of scenes of passionate kissing between married adults, one that results in a “bra and panties” shot from behind. The lights turn out, however, before any overt sexuality is portrayed. In one scene, Adams in a nightshirt displays enough leg to reveal her bare behind.
- The movie does contain a pair of crude, sexual jokes.
- The film contains no occultic content and the only possible religious topic is a couple of discussions about being “saved” from an unfulfilling life.
- “Julie & Julia” criticizes McCarthyism in a couple of scenes and makes a pair of jabs at Republicans in general that seems oddly out of place in the film.
- There is no violence in the movie, though it does show a “Saturday Night Live” routine where an actor fakes cutting himself as red “blood” squirts profusely about.