An adaptation of both Julia Child's "My Life in France" and "Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously" by Julie Powell, "Julie and Julia" certainly seems tailor-made for writer/director Nora Ephron ("Sleepless in Seattle", "You've Got Mail"). The film is an interesting mash-up of two different stories - that of legendary chef Julia Child (Meryl Streep)'s early years and that of Julie Powell (Amy Adams), a government employee who finds joy in the experience of creating each of the 524 dishes featured in Child's "The Art of French Cooking". The film bounces back-and-forth in time, following the experiences of the two women.
As for Powell, she spends her days at the call center for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation office, where she fields calls from 9/11 victims and those who are against the changes being planned for the site. At night, she comes home and, seeking to continue her writing - she was once the editor of a lit mag and had written an unpublished novel - by blogging about her experiences cooking hundreds of Child's dishes ("The Julie/Julia Project".)
The other storyline follows Child in the late '40's as she and her husband, Paul (Stanley Tucci) move to France and experience what the country has to offer as Child shapes her career and proceeds towards becoming a legend. The Child storyline is straightforward: it follows the early days of the chef's career. However, it's Streep that lights up the screen, clearly having a ball with her role. She's also perfectly paired with Tucci, and the two have a fun chemistry together.
The scenes with Adams work half as well. As someone who cooks as a creative outlet, I understand the outlet and the joy of blocking out everything else and working in the kitchen (often on something unplanned, improving a dish as I go along.) The movie doesn't get this feeling as much as Pixar's "Ratatouille" did, but does a fine job, nonetheless. Adams provides a fine performance as a woman whose quest for cooking allows her a much-needed creative outlet.
However, the rest of this story is a bit more mixed: we also follow Julie's relationship with husband Eric (Chris Messina), who is a one-dimensional character who eventually gets upset with his wive's devotion to the project (which is completely bizarre - a man becomes upset after his wife becomes obsessed with cooking gourmet meals?) Julie's husband and friends seemed like cliche characters who largely served as plot devices and to fill out the running time.
Still, while a few aspects fall a bit short and the movie could have trimmed a bit of fat to tighten the pace, "Julie and Julia" is a mostly successful blend of the two stories, with the film's three terrific lead performances (Tucci, Adams and Streep) as its highlight.
VIDEO: "Julie and Julia" is presented by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in 1.85:1 (1080p/AVC) and the results, while not spectacular, are firmly above-average. Sharpness and detail remained quite good, as the transfer offered fine clarity and small object detail throughout much of the running time.
Still, a few minor flaws were spotted - a few brief instances of edge enhancement were seen, as were some minor instances of noise - but the majority of the film looked clean and smooth. Colors remained bright and vivid, with fine saturation and no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: The film is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. As one might expect, the film's audio is subtle, with limited use of the surrounds. The rear speakers kick in for some slight ambience and reinforcement of the score, but otherwise, the audio is spread largely across the front speakers. Audio quality was fine, with crisp dialogue and score.
EXTRAS: Writer/director Nora Ephron offers an audio commentary for the film. The commentary provides a reasonably good overview of the production - writing, working with the cast, filming on-location and some of the dishes, among other topics - there are definitely a few stretches of small talk or silence on this track.
"Creating 'Julie and Julia'" is a nearly 30-minute documentary that takes a look into the making of the film. While there are some enjoyable tidbits regarding the development of the project and the experiences of the actors getting into character, the featurette still feels a tad promotional. "Family and Friends Remember Julia Child" is a 45-minute documentary that offers a gathering of interviews and clips about Child's life and work. Finally, the 20-minute "Julia's Kitchen" offers a look at Child's kitchen, which was brought to the Smithsonian.
Also included are a series of short "Cooking Lesson" clips, MovieIQ featuring Child's recipes and previews for other titles from the studio.
Final Thoughts: "Julie and Julia" is a mostly successful blend of these two stories, with the film's three terrific lead performances (Tucci, Adams and Streep) as the highlight. The Blu-Ray offers very good audio/video quality, as well as a set of mostly enjoyable extras. Recommended.
The Film B