Sunday, 20 May 2012

Julie & Julia (2009) - Nora Ephron

A word of warning: do not make the mistake I did and watch this film on an empty stomach.  I've never felt so hungry.

Julie & Julia is the parallel tale of aspiring American cook Julia Childs, living in Paris in 1949 as she writes her famous cookbook 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking', and Julie Powell, a young aspiring writer who cooks her way through Julia's 534 recipes within one year and blogs about it.  Despite living decades apart, both women are searching for their purpose in life, supported by their husbands and, of course, find success.

The film sets up the opportunity to explore the changing roles and views of women in society.  Julia's cookbook marks the ascent of the modern woman and the rise of modern cooking.  Julie, meanwhile, represents the stresses of the modern woman and learns, through Julia's cookbook, to learn to enjoy the smaller, more domestic elements of life.  Yet the characterisation relies on cliche.  Meryl Streep's Julia is merely a practise run for her turn as Thatcher in The Iron Lady, her English accent inexplicable.  Eventually, though, her relationship with her husband (Stanley Tucci) is adorably played.  Amy Adams's Julie, on the other hand, is the victim of female emancipation who smacks of Sex and the City, not least for her Miranda-esque looks, dinner dates with her overworked friends and constant writing ("I couldn't help but wonder...").

Yet even within these cliches, the film doesn't take things deep enough.  There's never any sense of danger, any sense that things will go wrong.  Instead, director Nora Ephron (no relation to Zac) settles for nice in a piece of heart-warming slush that doesn't really have a point to say.

It may be based on two true stories, but the film never answers one major question - with all this food and butter being eaten, why does nobody get fat?