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Julie & Julia

This Soufflé Falls a Bit Flat

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Julie Powell (Amy Adams) is a bit bored and disenchanted with her life. Living in a squalid apartment in Queens, Julie spends most of her waking hours laboring fruitlessly at a dead end secretarial job fielding phone calls from the disgruntled denizens of New York. Her only source of pleasure comes in the form of cooking. A few continents away (and a few decades earlier), Julia Child finds herself in France with her husband wondering what to do with herself. Thus begins Julie & Julia, a cinematic amalgamation of two memoirs.

In an attempt to assuage her frustration and ennui, Julie embarks on a bold mission to cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s famous Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year all the while blogging about her epic culinary marathon. Similarly, Julia Child (before she was the "Julia Child") enrolls at Le Cordon Bleu to learn the art of cooking after failing at hat making and nearly falling asleep taking a bridge class.

Writer/director Nora Ephron does her best to adapt and marry the two memoirs (Julie & Julia and My Life in France). Part of the challenge Ephron clearly faced is that Julia Child’s story is markedly more engaging and entertaining than Julie’s. Child is an icon. Julie wrote an engaging blog about cooking Child’s recipes. Inevitably, it’s hard to walk out of the theater feeling like you saw enough of Julia; you are left wanting.

Meryl Streep never fails to seduce with her charming portrayal of the quirky and congenial Julia Child. You can’t help rooting for Child, who is told repeatedly she has no talent. Child is a fascinating individual who never fails to engage. Streep’s portrayal elicits the overwhelming majority of the laughs in the film and is yet another excellent performance by Streep.

In contrast, Amy Adams comes across largely as annoying and shrew-like as Julie. While it’s easy to identify with her disenchantment with her job and near-30 angst, her behavior upon undertaking the Julia Child project is frequently juvenile and narcissistic. It’s more than a bit challenging to root for Julie whose main challenges seem to be her own bad behavior.

In many respects, Julie & Julia would have been a much better film had it focused exclusively on Julia. She’s a much more compelling and fascinating individual than Julie and there’s much more material to draw upon. What we’re left with is a fairly unbalanced film with one storyline (Julia’s) that compels and draws you in and another storyline (Julie’s) that never really evolves into anything compelling. Decidedly half-baked, Julie & Julia gets a review right down the middle.