J. Schmidt

For this week, I took an active approach to a film review; cooking along with Julie & Julia, Nora Ephron’s 2009 movie. There were a couple main dishes featured in this film that I had started to look into, Boeuf Bourguignon took hours and I had gotten home from work at almost 10 PM to begin with, and when I asked my mom for help acquiring lobster for Lobster Thermidor, she laughed in my face. Feeling the love from Mom.

I was thinking too hard about this: one of the recipes introductory to the film was bruschetta, an opening shot of bread smothered in butter, sizzling in a frying pan was enough to make you drool all over yourself right then and there. Bruschetta it was.

Step 1: Change into pajama pants (because all cooking is best done without that judgmental waistband.)

Step 2: Pour a glass of wine (because all writing is best done with some cabernet.)

Step 3: Create the most beautiful bruschetta ever.

Step 4: Top off the wine.

Step 5: Enjoy bruschetta, wine, and movie.

My mother, trooper as she is, stayed up late past her bedtime to put her stamp of approval on this foodie film experiment. I am a more adventurous cook, in that, if a recipe is missing one of my favorite ingredients, I am going to add it. Therefore, the recipe I found on this site got a couple alterations… For instance: The addition of scallions and freshly grated Parmesean cheese to the bruschetta, and instead of toasting the bread and then rubbing garlic on each piece like an old man with a sponge bath, I just let the bread sizzle in a pan full of sliced garlic and an overcoat of olive oil. 

Julie & Julia is where Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci remind their audience that they are incredibly talented. I am utterly over the moon in love with the tenderness exhibited between Meryl/Julia and Stanley/Paul. (Why are these two ever in films without each other?) Streep portrays the larger than life Julia Child, an American chef famous from cookbooks and televised cooking shows. Her timeline follows the years she lived in France with her husband, Paul (Tucci), learning the ways of French cooking and developing the cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking. (Side note: The head chef who teaches Julia how to cook is entirely adorable, while he may represent the clichéd French chef… He is like a crossbreed of Chef Boyardee and the Swedish Chef from the Muppets.) Julia is made out to be a charming woman, and she certainly made me feel like there was something lacking in the fact that I don’t wear pearls in the kitchen.

On the other hand…

The sections of Julie & Julia that focused on Amy Adams and her character, Julie Powell, make me want to fast forward through them. I spent my second viewing of the film trying, hoping, to find a redeeming quality in this persona, and it was in vain. Based on the blog-made-book by Julie Powell, Julie takes on the challenge of cooking her way through Julia Child’s cookbook within the span of a year. She is such a pathetic character, going through a rough patch in her life, realizing this is not where she wants to be, yadda yadda, and her husband suggests she jump on the blogging train. She does so, and then whines for readers. Once she receives the readers she was whining for, a couple comments cause Powell to grow self-righteous and self-involved. Her sections grind my gears and the only redeeming quality they have is the sight of the devilishly handsome Chris Messina stuffing his face with food. If only everyone could look that good with tomato juice running down their chin as they devour bruschetta. (I was armed with a lapful of napkins during my own endeavor.) I fail to see what brought these two together in marriage in the first place, but he stayed by her side through botched eggs and rebellious lobster. Personally, I’ve always been a fan of eggs for breakfast (over-easy, scrambled, omelet, whatever) but when Julie makes and eats her first poached egg, it is a total food turnoff. The only time I agree with this sad portrayal of human existence is when she describes the heaven of butter. Mmm, butter: A delicious heart attack.

The supporting cast in Julie & Julia are well chosen, and briefly introduced characters have enough gumption to stand on their own two feet: Jane Lynch as Julia Child’s sister, Dorothy, has a smile that brightens the room, and Linda Emond as Simone Beck does her best not to fall by the wayside in all of her scenes with Meryl Streep.

The mechanics in the film follow the usual Nora Ephron (When Harry Met Sally (1989), Sleepless in Seattle (1993), You’ve Got Mail (1998)) format and is good natured and symmetrical in its storytelling: She has two characters, two points of view, two timelines of similar experiences. Tried and true, this director knows how to style her movies. And might I note, although the crew never left New York, the shots of France and the Childs’ time there did not look illegitimate and allowed the audience to fall under its illusion.

Now, readers, I believe I stashed my leftover bruschetta ingredients in the fridge and there’s enough for me to snag a snack. Until next time!

Bon appétit!

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