Any notion that the golden nimbus of Obamatime would stop Hollywood from dropping such bizarrely random political cheap shots into movies should be dropped, for Julie & Julia turns out to be — you guessed it — obsessed with the idea that Republicans are coming to stop all the fun.
Julia Child, you see, was hounded by Joe McCarthy, or so the movie would like you to believe. It’s the 1950s when she starts work on her epic cookbook, and her husband is a diplomat, so … he was apparently called in for a few questions one day. Viewers might be forgiven for wondering where the horrible part is when a guy is given an all-expenses-paid transatlantic voyage to Washington in exchange for sitting through an interview. Several scenes are interrupted by anti-McCarthy chatter, though if he ruined the lives of batty American chefs in Paris, this is surely the first movie to so argue.
Why the intrusion? Because Ephron’s romantic-comedy recipe doesn’t include the kinds of interesting conflicts that couples actually face. She’s only interested in cute. Conservatives, in Ephron’s world, are like the monsters in a children’s book — easy targets, like the snobby French matron who tells Child Americans can’t cook. (She responds with a raspberry.) Why does the sequoia-proportioned Julia Child come across as a sex kitten (there’s even — brace yourself — a bubble bath scene) in this movie? Because it’s cute.
A recent New Yorker profile of Ephron underscored the point that, though Ephron’s disastrous marriage to Carl Bernstein led to the book and movie Heartburn, now her husband characters are blandly supportive nice guys, just as her heroines are adorably plucky underdogs. There’s a scene in Julie & Julia in which the movie implies (but doesn’t mention) that Child couldn’t have children and was miserable about it. She cries for ten seconds, and no reference is made to the matter again. Onward with scenes like the one in which Child, determined to prove she can slice an onion, slices a pile of them the size of Mount Blanc. Cute!