Julie & Julia tells the stories of Julie Powell, a woman who decides to cook through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year, and Julia Child, an woman in love with food who decides to write a French cookbook for servantless Americans. Contrary to our expectations, the two never meet, but their stories are intertwined, synchronizing the highs and lows of each endeavour to tell a cohesive story about women finding joy by following their love of food, and of the people around them.
The appeal of this light-hearted movie comes in two main forms: wonderful, genuine relationships between wonderful, genuine people… and food porn.
Starting with the food: this movie made me hungry! Even in scenes not revolving around either characters’ cooking endeavours, the camera lingers lovingly on plates of food, and the characters spend half their time talking with their mouths full. Often, people don’t eat in movies; they might deign to converse in front of plates of food, but we rarely see them putting bite after bite in their mouths. Neither Julie nor Julia would stand for such half-heartedness in eating, and it makes a refreshing change from the sometimes food-phobic atmosphere of Hollywood to hear a movie say (paraphrasing), “There’s no such thing as too much butter. Everything delicious you’ve ever eaten, the trick was butter!”
Even more fun, for me, was seeing the tiny moments between characters that revealed the depth and strength of their relationships. When Julie tells her coworker that she’s gotten a record-breaking number of comments, the two of them do a cheerful hand-clapping routine reminiscent of girls on the playground. When Julia and her sister “jinx” each other later in the movie, they have their own hand-game ritual as well. In both cases the moment takes a character with a tiny part, and makes the viewer feel as though she has an extensive backstory. It also increases our feeling of connection between our two aspiring chefs, which increases as the movie goes on.
Now, I don’t want to give the impression that this is an overwhelmingly joyful movie. Honestly, the “ups and downs” are probably more down than up. One of the most compelling tiny-moment scenes comes when Julia receives news of her sister’s pregnancy; she sits on the counter and cries, all while yelling, “It’s wonderful! I’m so happy for them!” The topic of children never comes up again, but it’s a valuable moment. However, the tender way that her husband holds her, while moving, isn’t exactly nice. Julie has a number of meltdowns and her marriage nearly falls apart from the stress. It’s not all chocolate cake and boef bourguinon! There are also aspics.
However, the message of the movie as a whole is essentially a joyful one. Both Julie and Julia are told to be courageous and embrace their strength, and, in the end, they do so, leaving us with one message: “Bon Appétit!” I would definitely recommend it for anyone looking for a pleasant way to spend a few hours.