Julie & Julia (Columbia Pictures, 2009)
There is something delightfully ironic about Nora Ephron's new cooking comedy, a quirky upbeat feminist tale in which a postwar Connecticut housewife and her 21st century protégé both achieve fame and fortune by heading back into the very kitchen so many mid-century housewives were attempting to escape.
But of course the indomitable and inspirational Julia Child (Meryl Streep) was never interested in being shackled to the modern conveniences and processed foods of the dumbed-down mid-century suburban kitchen. The woman who taught two generations of American women (and men) to master the art and craft of French cooking, offered millions of her readers and viewers a culinary course in liberation by convincing them that they were better, smarter, and more talented than the burgers and macaroni they were being served.
On the page and the screen Julia was a masterful teacher, offering lucid, detailed instructions and a joyful inspiring confidence that encouraged millions to take up the intimidating tasks of French cuisine and laugh blithely at the occasional faux pas.
A half century after Mastering the Art of French Cooking first hit the bestseller list, young Julie Powell (Amy Adams) decides to escape the doldrums of her dead-end job and Queens apartment by cooking her way through the 500-plus recipes in Child's masterpiece, keeping a blog of the marathon journey. Powell is no Child, though her occasionally whiny self-pitying blog often seems quite childish compared to the giant at whose feet she cooks.
Still, if Julia's book and approach mean anything, they mean that an ordinary human being (without a servant) can indeed create masterpieces, and that no one in Queens or Kansas should believe they are doomed to serve Mac & Cheese or take out. Julie's often fragile and weepy responses give hope that any of us could, in fact, cook a great meal - or do other extraordinary things.
In the end Julie & Julia make an excellent tag team, showing us we are capable and worthy of a masterpiece. So, break a few eggs and bon appétit!