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Film / Julie & Julia

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Julie & Julia is a 2009 comedy-drama film written and directed by Nora Ephron, based on a 2006 memoir of the same name by Julie Powell. It tells two stories that, while related, never quite intersect.

One story is about Julie Powell (played by Amy Adams). Julie is a government worker and unsuccessful writer who has just moved from Brooklyn to a depressing part of Queens for a larger apartment (relatively speaking) and to be closer to her husband's place of work. Her work is depressing — the year is 2002, and she is dealing with a lot of calls related to the 9/11 attacks. When Julie learns that one of her friends, who she considers vapid, is writing a blog, she decides to write one herself. She and her husband discuss what it should be about, because it is supposed to be a distraction from her depressing life. They finally decide it should be about cooking. She has a copy of Julia Child's cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking and so she decides to cook every recipe in it in one year (please note that there are over five hundred recipes included in it). This, even though she has a husband, a job, and a cat, and is only home in the late evening, quickly becomes an obsession.

The other story is about Julia Child herself (played by the great Meryl Streep) and how she came to (help) write that cookbook and become a great cook. We meet her in the beginning of the film in the late 1940s, when she moves to Paris. She is the life of the party, so exuberant that most people love her despite her impropriety, which is good because she is married to a diplomat. Since the wives of diplomats are rarely required to do anything, Julia knows she needs to do something to keep from going crazy. After unsuccessful (as in unenjoyable) attempts at hat making and learning to play bridge, she decides to take a cooking class at Le Cordon Bleu. On determining that she already knows what the cooking course is attempting to teach her, she asks the woman running the place (one of the few people who dislike her, and the feeling becomes mutual) if there is anything more advanced. There is—the course for professional chefs. So Julia takes that one and loves it...

The film provides examples of:

  • Big Fun: Julia is adorable, and when her sister (Jane Lynch) shows up, all the two do together is laugh. In real life, Julia was 6'2" and her sister 6'4".
  • Blog: Blogging was a relatively new phenomenon at the time the modern half of the film is set, as can be seen in the details. For example, while it's common practice now to put a donation link on one's personal site, Julie is hesitant to monetize her blog, thinking it will make her look like she's just doing this for the money.
  • Broken Pedestal: While still very personable and nice, Julia is revealed to be far from prudish about sex (breaking any notions of reserved '40s-'50s housewife stereotypes), and while Julie is inspired by Julia's adventures in cooking, her heroine's only response upon hearing of the blog project is to regard it with disdain as "missing the point" of her book.
  • Cute Kitten: Not a kitten, but a minor character in Julie's cat.
  • Doorstopper: The cookbook. This is a plot point in both stories. (Though surprisingly, not to the same degree as Julia's later solo work, The Way To Cook.)
  • Foreshadowing:
    • During the Valentine's dinner, one of the guests ask if Julia and Paul were spies during the war. Both of them deny this. When the Childs' records were unsealed in 2008, it came to light that Julia really was a top-secret researcher. The filmmakers elected to go with only facts that were established in 2002, when the modern half of the film was set, but added the conversation to hint at the later revelation.
    • Paul and Julia are walking through a park where they pass a couple pushing a baby carriage - Julia watches them sadly and Paul pats her hand tenderly. See Happily Married below.
  • Food Porn: If you watch this film and don't feel hungry afterwards, then you either hate food or were sitting there with your eyes closed the whole time.
  • Happily Married: Julia and Paul, very much so despite never being able to have children. Julie and Eric... yes and no.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade:
    • Louisette is less a villain than a minor hinderance, but the film paints her in a very bad light, implying that she did far less work on the cookbook than the other two. This was entirely invented for the film. Louisette Bertholle was going through a nasty divorce in the middle of writing and her ability to contribute suffered because of it, but there's no indication that Julia or Simone held this against her or confronted her over it.
    • Madame Brassart is the most overtly villainous character in the film, and the shared animosity between her and Julia was absolutely true to life and as depicted in My Life in France; however Tim and Nina Zagat, who knew both women personally, came to Brassart's defense and pointed out that the friction between the two women (who could, after all, scarcely be more different from one another) was simply due to a clash of personalities.
  • Inspired by…: Two true stories. Both the memoir noted above and Julia Child's autobiography My Life in France were used for this film.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: While Julie Powell may have looked like a kicked puppy after Julia Child told her she'd missed the point of her cookbook, she wasn't far from the mark. Julia Child made it her mission to demystify a style of cooking presumed to be too advanced for home cooks; in that context, it's not hard to see how she could take offense to Julie Powell building-up Mastering the Art of French Cooking as a mighty challenge.
  • Large Ham: Meryl Streep, because Julia Child was like that.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: When her sister Dorothy writes to tell Julia of her pregnancy, Julia tries her best to be happy for her, but ends up crying on her husband's shoulder. Julia desperately wanted children, but didn't marry until she was 34 and found herself unable to conceive.
  • Misaimed Fandom: In-universe, this is said to be what Julia Child thinks of Julie when she hears about the latter, since she wrote her cook book in order to make cooking easier and more accessible, and not the source of a Self-Imposed Challenge.
  • Nice Girl: Julia is so charismatic and friendly that Paul notes even the famously grouchy Parisians quickly warm up to her.
    • Eric is nothing but kind and supportive of Julie, giving encouragement and actively helping her— and then it gets not so much subverted as shown to be the top layer of his Hidden Depths when Julie's efforts to complete the challenge make her obsessed with her blog, and Eric refuses to be an Extreme Doormat as it consumes their relationship. He draws the line after a fight asking that she not talk about the fight in her blog and storms out. Julie sincerely calling him "a saint" becomes a sore spot, as he feels it invalidates his concerns and negative feelings. Part of their reconciliation involves her substituting calling him "saint" when he helps her for "horrible, and difficult to live with".
  • Precision F-Strike: Paul gives one when Julia's book is rejected for the umpteenth time.
  • A Simple Plan: All Julie wants to do is cook her way through Julia Child's book in order to prove to herself she can finish a project. It ends up taking over her life and threatening both her marriage and her husband's hyperacidic stomach.
  • Spy Fiction: Paul and Julia met During the War while working abroad.
    Dinner Guest: Were you spies?
    Paul: No. (Beat) Yes. (beat) No.
  • That Poor Cat: When Julie has a tantrum and throws things, we hear a cat yowl. More Jerkass than usual for this trope, as the cat is supposed to be Julie's beloved pet.
  • Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: Julia is 6'2"; Paul is around 5'8". Also, Julia's sister Dorothy is much taller than her future husband.
  • True Companions: Julia gains these in the course of her story. Julie has some to start, but it's an odd take on the trope because it seems like she doesn't like most of them very much; she's introduced groaning to Eric about being expected to show up for "Cobb Salad Thursday."
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: Unusual because the lines don't quite cross. Julie does hear about Julia's distaste of the project, however.
  • Unreliable Voiceover: Julia narrates a letter as she's writing it to a friend, mentioning that Paul comes home for lunch every day and then takes a nap before going back to work. What's being shown, however, is him getting re-dressed while she reclines against the headboard with a Modesty Bedsheet.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife:
    • When Julia's sister comes to visit, Julia intends on setting her up with a tall, dark and handsome colleague of her husband. Instead, the sister is seen getting flirty with a short, smarmy-looking friend of theirs who makes her laugh. They eventually marry and have a family.
    • Notably averted with both the main couples in the film, though. Julia Child was never a great beauty, nor her husband more than average looking, and Julie and Eric are about equal in attractiveness.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds:
    • Julia and Simca, who ultimately parted ways over Mastering volume 3 (which was eventually published as Simca's Cuisine, without Julia's collaboration). They did remain friends but never collaborated again.
    • Julie and her circle of more successful friends, particularly the blogger. There's even a discussion of it, wherein an honestly bewildered Eric points out that men generally like their friends.
  • Where Are They Now: A brief blurb at the end tells us that Paul died in 1994, and Julia in 2004. Julie became a writer and her book became a movie.