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The Lens: 'Julie & Julia' is a feast

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 10, 2009 - For a plate full of food and fun, see "Julie &and Julia," the new comedy written and directed by Nora Ephron. Though in some ways it is the ultimate "chick flick," it fully deserves viewing by men as well. After all, men eat, too - and they deserve to share this treat.

The immortal Meryl Streep plays the immortal Julia Child, and it is a stunning portrait. Julia Child was 6'2" and Streep is but 5'6"; however, the filmmakers make one see and feel her height in every scene. Julia/Streep takes over every scene in which she appears except the ones she shares with husband Paul Child, marvelously portrayed by Stanley Tucci. What a beautiful marriage they have. And what a setting: Most of the "Julia" part of the movie takes place in 1950s Paris, and that splendid city has never looked better.

The other, by necessity lesser, half of the movie is set in Manhattan and Queens and stars the adorable Amy Adams as Julie Powell. Turning 30, Julie is stuck in a temp job while her "friends" flaunt their great careers over lunch. Luckily, Julie is happily married to the equally adorable Eric (Chris Messina), who encourages her ambition to become a writer.

Julie's new project is to make every one of the 524 recipes in "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" in 365 days and writing a daily blog about it, quite a task for someone working full time. Adams is excellent but no match for Streep, just as the apartment over a pizzeria in Queens looks dreary next to the Childs' elegant digs in Paris.

Writer/director Ephron deftly tells the story of two books in alternating segments. Child's masterpiece evolved out of her boredom as a housewife in Paris while her husband, a diplomat, is busy with his State Department duties. The first woman to enroll in the prestigious Cordon Bleu cooking school, she meets a frosty reception with characteristic aplomb. Eventually she meets her French co-authors and begins what seems like a doomed project. Meanwhile, we learn more about her life and family and see more delightful interaction between Julia and Paul.

Meanwhile, back in the other half of the movie, Julie and her husband are watching reruns of "The French Chef" (starring Streep this time) as Julie struggles with her cooking while fretting that no one is reading her blog except her mother, who hates the project. Child's book took years, finally arriving in the mail when she and Paul are living in Cambridge, Mass. Both women face obstacles and discouragement, but Julie gets her recognition before the end of her year-long project. Both women need - and get - the love and support of their husbands.

One warning: Watching this movie makes one hungry! Many scrumptious dishes are prepared, some wine consumed, and a good time had by all. "Julie and Julia" is a feast for the palate and for the heart. Bon appetit!

The Lens is the blog of Cinema St. Louis, hosted by the Beacon.