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!