Julie & Julia: Cute, with a Side of Republican Bashing

Will a blogger you’ve never heard of manage to make boeuf bourguignon? Come to Julie & Julia for the answer.

Julie & Julia, an unbearably cute movie from Nora Ephron, hangs all of its laughs and most of its tears on absurdly small obstacles, aiming at an audience for whom the idea of taking a year to cook every recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking -- why, that’s almost one and a half food items a day! -- seems a really interesting and daunting challenge.

Julie Powell (played by redhead Amy Adams, who stuffs her performance with Meg Ryan perkiness) is a bored worker whose job is to field complaints about Ground Zero for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. It’s typical of this movie that the charred underbelly of New York City receives barely a glance. The charred beef, though, is meant to make us cluck in despair, and Julie’s day job is mere quirk meant to show how weird office life is.

Since she announces on a blog on Salon.com that she is out to test every recipe in the French cuisine bible -- again, these recipes were specifically designed to be easy, so count this as one of the less impossible dreams you’ve ever heard of -- the movie shuttles back and forth between Julie’s mini-quest and the story of how Julia Child (Meryl Streep), that equine epicure, turned herself from a bored wife of a diplomat (Stanley Tucci) posted to Paris into first a trained French chef and then a celebrated cookbook writer in the 1950s.

Child, whom Streep overplays with many a flouncing gesture and a ridiculous (but accurate) dog-whistle voice, was a linebacker-sized American whose zany cheer made her a cult star when she hosted a PBS cooking show in the 1970s.

Among the phony conflicts Julie faces: Her husband gets angry with her because she keeps calling him a saint on her blog. She freaks out when it’s time to boil a lobster (she doesn’t object to eating dead animals; it’s just being the one to dump the critters in the pot that gives her moral qualms). She falls asleep when she’s supposed to take her boeuf bourginon out of the oven. Then she skips work the next day to fix the problem. Her boss finds out (since she blogs all the details) and says: “Anyone else would fire you. A Republican would fire you!”