The movie interleaves depictions of Julie Powell's "Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously," which recounts her adventures in preparing every recipe in Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," in one year's time, and Child's memoire, "My Life in France," which recounts how the cookbook came to be.
Amy Adams, as Powell, and Meryl Streep, as Child, have almost equal screen time as the interestingly parallel stories play out. Adams is cute and funny in the role of Powell, who takes refuge from her literally hellish day job in cooking, and hopes to spark her stalled writing career with her blog. Streep gives us a quite believable Child, who starts out "hungry" for something to do in Paris, and promotes her love of food into cooking school, then teaching cooking, then collaborating on the cookbook, to being a TV phenomenon. (In the 1940-50's, it was not the "done thing" for wives of Foreign Service Officers to have jobs, especially in a foreign posting, even if Child's marginal French would have made that possible, so she needed a respectable hobby, not being content to be just one of the "ladies who lunch.") The one flaw I felt was in the depction of Child on TV, where I thought Streep was too tentative and didn't have the real Child's "zest,"
although they may have been reproducing one of her earlier programs.
The respective husbands are important characters as well. Stanley Tucci is given the role of Paul Child as an unsung hero, Julia's rock of support and inspiration. Chris Messina as Eric Powell, who likewise encouraged Julie's blog, is less saintly as his patience wears thin dealing with Julie's occasional meltdowns.
Full marks to those people in the production department responsible for actually making the food (or artistic substitutes) used: it looked real and delicious (and the disasters appropriately disasterous) and the methods correct. We both found the onion-chopping scene hilarious but agreed that that's the way you have to learn to do it--.
We found the movie charming, funny, and inspiring. Highly recommended, especially if you like to cook.