By Roger Moore
“Julie & Julia” is a gloriously frothy confection, a late-summer delight built on Meryl Streep’s hilarious impersonation of “The French Chef,” Julia Child.
The comedy about a would-be writer’s attempt to cook her way through Child’s culture-changing cookbook sees Nora Ephron return to her “Sleepless in Seattle” form. She combined Julie Powell’s book on her quest to “be like Julia” and Child’s own memoir of her years in France to create a movie that engages every time it focuses on Julie (Amy Adams, sweet as ever) in her Queens, N.Y., kitchen, and tickles every moment it flashes back to Julia’s struggles to learn French, learn French cuisine and write the cookbook that taught America “Bon appetit!”
Julie was living in quiet desperation, with a thankless job dealing with irate, grieving New Yorkers over plans to replace The World Trade Center. But she liked to cook. Her husband (Chris Messina, solid support) suggests a blog. And Julie comes up with a task, the chance “to finally finish something” in her life. She will follow the 524 recipes in Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” cook them all within a year, and blog about it.
As Julie goes through this culinary metamorphosis, we skip back to the late 1940s, when newlywed Julia Child (Stanley Tucci is spot-on perfect as her droll husband, Paul) moved to Paris and found her life’s calling. The tall, loud woman with the silly, fluty voice, boundless enthusiasm and adorably self-deprecating wit comes back to life in Streep’s hands. Virtually every time she opens her mouth as “Joooooolia” she lands a laugh. Streep even plays “tall,” a neat trick.
Through her performance we realize, as Julie did, the truth in her husband’s don’t-be-intimidated-by-the-great-cook pep talk.
“Julia Child wasn’t always Julia Child.”
Another coup — landing the towering comedienne Jane Lynch (“Role Models”) as Julia’s sister. She holds her own with Streep and then some. Every bit of casting works so well that even slower moments sing.
“Julie & Julia” does tend to bog down in the last act, and using the entire riotous Dan Aykroyd “Save the liver!” “Saturday Night Live” sketch is a cheat. But as Child put it whenever a souffle fell or crepe didn’t flip, “Never apologize!”