Love in romance movies like “The Time Traveler” and “The Lake House” flourishes despite space and time, but this week brings a film that examines romance of a different kind, that still achieves the same transcendence: the love of food.
“Julie & Julia” sets culinary icon Julia Child (Meryl Streep) against Julia Powell (Amy Adams), a writer and drag-ass cubicle dweller who struggles with self-expression and her own skin as she approaches the age of 30. Child becomes Powell’s real and imaginary muse as the latter cooks her way through the legendarily hefty recipe volume “Mastering The Art Of French Cooking” in a year.
"I was doing an idealized version of her and my mother," says Streep of her inspiration for acting the part. "My mother had a similar joie de vivre. I wanted to be more like my mother. This is my homage to her.”
While, at times, the parallels between these two drastically different women feel forced, the core of the story is the creation and delectable destruction of great cuisine. Which is precisely what Columbia Pictures hopes will drive women to movie theaters, and not just wait for it to come out on DVD.
The soft crunch of bruscetta and drops of fresh tomato falling to the plate; sweeping views of Paris as hundreds of onions are chopped; bubbling butter biting at the edges of cooked sole. It’s food porn. (Too bad audiences will have to settle for popcorn and soda.)
“I loved the idea of the option, but when I read the book, I thought at first, ‘I can’t make a movie out of this,” says Nora Ephron, no stranger to modern romance films. But combined with the love story of Julia Child, and both women’s love for food, she was able to complete a concept.
But the cast fills out the emotional peaks and valleys of the gastronomic journey. Streep was paired with Stanley Tucci (Paul), and the two fawned over each in real life nearly as much as they do in the film.
"He's just a real treat to work with," said Streep at a recent press conference in New York. "It wasn't a tough job to imagine being in love with him."
"We have to go now. We are in a hotel, after all. Thanks for coming," he gags, pretending to excuse himself. The two previously worked together on “The Devil Wears Prada.” "I have been in love with Meryl Streep for many, many years."
Chris Messina plays husband Eric to Adams’ Julia, tumbling through the gastronomic challenge with her step for step, Tums after Tums. “After a day of lots of eating, I started to complain. Nora yelled from the other room ‘Robert DeNiro would do it!’ That got me back in there and focused for another seven lobsters.”
While so many other female-centered movies dwell on singledom, “Julie & Julia” is anchored on the unique marriages both couples endured as each woman went down her respective career calling. The central characteristics to each pairs’ successful marriages? Sex and food.
You wouldn’t necessarily get that theme from the real-life Powell’s blog “The Julie/Julia Project or book, “Julie & Julia: My Year Of Cooking Dangerously,” though most of the details remained intact. Some of what was changed for the film adaptation is that the kitchen in the movie was a little smaller than Powell’s kitchen, “I would have never said ‘the f-word.’ I’d just say f*ck,” smiles Powell, and “I would never, ever go to a Dean & Deluca. I hate that place.”
There’s plenty culled from Child’s original book “My Life In France” and lots of love for Le Cordon Bleu, the culinary school which set the chef off when she was in her late 30s and just learning to cook. The institute makes a shining appearance in the film and has been heavily promoting the movie as much as Columbia has. It’s school across America will gladly teach you Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon recipe if you don’t care to go it alone.
"Julie & Julia" is now in theaters.