Film

'Julie & Julia'

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Street gives vibrant performance

On The Aisle

By Tony Macklin

0820-ffw-julia

Stanley Tucci as “Paul Child” and Meryl Streep as “Julia Child

in Columbia Pictures’ Julie & Julia

“Julie & Julia” is a scrumptious delight. I am not an avid fan of Meryl Streep’s usually mannered performances, but this time out as Julia Child, she gives a vibrant breakthrough performance that rattles all her acting pots and pans.

It’s a tour de force. And I loved it. Streep carves, bastes, bones and whisks up the screen as the irresistible, iconic gourmand.

Streep’s Julia is jubilant. Chortling, smiling, waving her arms about like a happy ostrich, she is a paragon of awkward charm.

When Julia breaks into laughter — which is often — one almost has to laugh with her.

It is one of the most infectious performances in recent film history.

In Streep’s towering shadow is Amy Adams who is as engaging as Julie Powell, the would-be culinary godchild who wants to follow in her idol’s yeasty footsteps.

“Julie & Julia” is the story of two women — 40 years apart — who let cooking enrich and bless their lives.

The movie begins in 1949 in France, where Julia moves with her husband Paul (Stanley Tucci), a U.S. government official who has been posted to Paris. Unable to bear children, she is seeking something to occupy her time and enrolls as the only woman in the Cordon Bleu cooking school.

This leads Julia, with two French women, to try to write a book of French cooking for Americans. Ultimately she has success.

Julia’s quest pursuing the holy quail of food is juxtaposed with Julie Powell, a young woman living with her husband in 2002 in Queens, New York. In the doldrums of a job answering the phone calls of people affected by the attack on Twin Towers and the plans for a memorial, Julie desperately needs some respite.

She decides to replicate all of the recipes of Julia Child, 524 recipes in 365 days. She records her personal culinary ups and downs on a blog.

The supporting cast is strong. Tucci (Paul Childs) and Chris Messina (Eric Powell) are solid as the two supportive husbands. And TV actress Jane Lynch is appealingly memorable as Julia Child’s tall sister Dorothy.

Director and screenwriter Nora Ephron has decided to make a fairytale that mostly avoids any harsh realities. She bases her script on Child’s autobiographical “My Life in France,” (written with Alex Prud’homme), and Julie Powell’s memoir “Julie & Julia.”

Ephron braises the reality.

I wish Ephron had kept her feel-good vibe, but near the end she includes information that goes against the sentimentality that has come before. When, as a 90-year-old, Julia Child acts out of character for the image Ephron has created for her, it is jarring. It is true, but goes against what has come before.

In reality, Julie’s blog was more about her than about food, and she and Julia come from different worlds, ages and sensibilities.

In “Julie & Julia,” Julia Child is the good witch, but at the end, Ephron knocks the wand out of her hand.

But basically Ephron has created a lovely fairytale about a fairy godmother and her rapt goddaughter.

She also includes the terrific Dan Aykroyd skit on Saturday Night Live where he does a hilarious takeoff on the divine Julia.

Funny and appealing, “Julie & Julia” is a vivacious pleasure.

In the word of both Julie and Julia: Yum.

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