Isn’t it nice to have people in your life that love you? That’s what Julie and Julia is really about — husbands and wives working together for each other, sacrificing for one another to make their marriages work. Sure there’s a lot of cooking involved in Julie and Julia, but the magic of the story lies in the loving nature of the people portrayed.
Five hundred and twenty-four recipes in 365 days, that’s what Julie Powell (Amy Adams) is planning on doing. She’s going to cook every single one of Julia Child’s recipes found in the cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Julie is unhappy in her life, but not her marriage (that’s important). She’s got a loving husband to come home to every night, but the days are what eat away at her. Maybe I had a little more compassion for Julie because, like her, I work in a lifeless cubicle in a thankless job. It’s not as bad as Julie’s though. She works for an insurance agency dealing with the direct aftermath of 9/11, and the victims' families. Each day Julie's job continuously heaps more and more emotional baggage onto her, as she listens to the sorrowful stories of 9/11 victims. She even gets berated by a few unhappy customers.
Needing something to take her mind off her humdrum working life, Julie decides that she’s going to cook all 524 of Julia Child’s recipes in one year and keep a blog about the experience. Amy Adams is just as cute as she's ever been. She's fun to watch. She takes on Julie as a determined young woman who's finally going to finish something in her life.
Through flashbacks spanning a few decades, we also get the inside scoop on the life of Julia Child (Meryl Streep). Streep is dead on with this role. She’s spunky and happy, and you can’t help but chuckle almost every time she’s on screen. She has a loving husband named Paul (Stanley Tucci) who never once raises his voice at her. He never once tries to control her. He supports her in anything she wants to do, and is a loyal companion for her. It’s nice to see that in movies for a change.
Julia is bored with everything; she and Paul have just moved to Paris because Paul has been transferred to the embassy there. Julia tries bridge lessons, but finds them dull. She tries hat-making lessons, but that’s just too tedious. But, cooking lessons, well now, that’s got something to it. She takes off with her lessons, writes one of the most famous cookbooks in the world, becomes an American icon, and does it all with a smile on her face.
Julie and Julia steers away from the rote formula that this type of film follows. Usually there’s a big fight within the core relationships that would take the entire third act of the film to mend. Here it’s more like real life. Sure things get a bit heated, like when Julie's husband gets fed up with the time she's spending on her cooking, but they aren’t blown out of proportion and they aren’t created by an inane misunderstanding that could take two sentences to work out. These couples work with each other, they understand each other. It’s great to see two families in a film that genuinely love each other for once. It doesn’t feel false or forced, it just feel natural.
Julie and Julia is an uplifting story about two women and the men who love them. It’s got all the components for a competent drama and comedy, but somehow it raises the bar a little bit higher. It steps above the formulaic Hollywood films, and becomes its own recipe for success.