AWFJ Women On Film – “Julie & Julia” – Susan Granger reviews

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Whether you like to cook or just enjoy eating, this gastronomic delight joins the pantheon of culinary-themed films like “Babette’s Feast” and “Eat Drink Man Woman,” interweaving two stories about creatively frustrated women who find professional fulfillment and, eventually, fame through cooking and writing about food.

When Julia Child (Meryl Streep) arrives in Paris in 1948 with her diplomat husband, Paul (Stanley Tucci), she rhapsodizes in epicurean ecstasy over her first lunch: Dover sole sputtering in butter sauce. Floundering for a purpose in life, propelled by her passion for eating and enjoyment of shopping in fragrant French markets, Julia enrolls at Le Cordon Bleu and eventually collaborates with Simone Beck (Linda Edmond) and Louisette Bertholle (Helen Carey) to write a comprehensive French cookbook aimed at “servantless” Americans.

Intricately juxtaposed is the less-compelling 2002 dilemma faced by Julie Powell (Amy Adams), a downtrodden NYC Downtown Development administrative assistant who seeks solace by attempting all 524 butter-laden recipes in the first volume of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in 365 days in the tiny kitchen of the cramped apartment in Queens she shares with her long-suffering husband (Chris Messina) – and writing about her travails in a blog. Julie’s crowing glory is Julia’s duck en croute.

Adapted by writer/director Nora Ephron (“You’ve Got Mail,” “Sleepless in Seattle”) from Ms. Child’s posthumously published autobiography, “My Life in France” and Ms. Powell’s memoir, “Julie & Julia,” it also pays homage to supportive spouses – without whom neither woman might ever have achieved her goal.

In yet another indelible, Oscar-caliber performance, Meryl Streep embodies 6’2” Julia Child, perfectly capturing her sing-song, vowel-elongating vocal cadence, while Amy Adams is charming as her ardent admirer – and kudos to food stylist Susan Spungen for the appetizing dishes. Unfortunately, when the director is also the writer, there’s no one around to call a halt, so some of the scenes drone on too long. But that’s a minor quibble. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Julie & Julia” is a foodie-friendly 9. Bon Appetit!

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.