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Julie & Julia (2009)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/8/2009

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Audio: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/25/2009

A wise man once said, "You can't please all of the people all of the time." and truer words have never been spoken. Just try to find a movie which has something to which everyone can relate. No comedy can satisfy everyone's sense of humor. We all have different fears, so horror movies will effect everyone differently. A movie which will move some to tears will simply bore others. However, there is one thing which we all have in common; we all have to eat. And, I would have to presume that when we eat, we all like good food. So, if nothing else, the movie Julie & Julia has that going for it; we all like good food and we understand the pursuit of it.

Julie & Julia tells two parallel stories. In 1949, Julia Child (Meryl Streep) moves to Paris with her husband Paul (Stanley Tucci), who works in the American embassy. In 2002, Julie Powell (Amy Adams) moves to Queens with her husband Eric (Chris Messina). A bored housewife, Julia searches for something to do, and decides to attend cooking school. Her passion for eating soon turns into a passion for cooking. Stuck in an unsatisfying job, Julie decides to make her way through Julia Child's cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. She will attempt to make every recipe in the book and she will blog about it. Julia meets two women, Simone Beck (Linda Emond) and Louisette Bertholle (Helen Carey), who convince her to help them write a cookbook. But, they soon learn that writing a cookbook isn't as easy as it seems. Julie's initial passion for her blogging project soon turns into frustration when her desire to replicate the cookbook takes a toll on her life and marriage.

As noted above, Julie & Julia tells two stories. This is both the film's strength and weakness. The parallel stories have similarities, as both deal with women who, with the support of their husbands, embark on a challenging, life-changing task. Each of these tales reflect the social climate of the time. Julia Child was a bored housewife whose hobby turned into a career at a time when many women didn't have jobs, much less careers. As for Julie, she had become corporate cog and was looking for a way to express herself and prove that she could actually do something. Despite the fact that these two stories are taking place across vast distances of time, they play well against one another and Writer/Director Nora Ephron has clever staged the script and edited the film so that the events of the two women's lives nicely pair up.

The drawback of Julie & Julia is that most viewers are going to prefer one story over the other. For me, I was much more interested in the Julia Child story for two reasons. First of all, I knew next to nothing about Child and the film worked very well as a biography for me. The film stretched far beyond my previous knowledge of simply knowing her as a chef from TV and did a great job of examining the minute details of her life, most importantly her very loving relationship with her husband. Secondly, I found Child's story to be more inspiring. Here was a woman who turned a simple love for food into an empire which pre-dated the likes of Martha Stewart or Rachael Ray. She broke down barriers for women as chefs and with the acceptance of French food in America. With Julie, I found her to be whiny and petulant. As presented in the film, the whole blog/cookbook thing came together far too easily, and while she was clearly stressed during this time, attention and success seemed to just fall into her lap.

On the whole, Julie & Julia is a solid film. Meryl Streep turns in one of her best performances ever, as she disappears into the role as Child. Amy Adams is excellent as well. While the role of Powell may seem easier, I definitely saw a change here as the usually likable Adams was off-putting in this role. While the movie is certainly worth watching, and it's informative, in the end, it's not a true winner due to its lack of suspense. We know that Child becomes a renowned chef and we know that Powell's blog led to a movie deal, but the journey is still enjoyable.

Julie & Julia indulges in the butter on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 23 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain or defects from the source material. This is one of those Blu-rays where the picture is so nice, that one begins to take the high-def picture for granted. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The picture has a nice amount of detail and we can clearly see textures on objects. Street scenes offer a nice amount of depth. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.3 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Being a drama, we aren't overwhelmed by audio effects here, but the track works well. The stereo effects are nicely done and show good detail. There are several moments where off-screen action is nicely highlighted by these effects. The surround sound effects are most notable during party scenes or street scenes.

The Julie & Julia Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Writer/Director Nora Ephron. "Secret Ingredients: Creating Julie & Julia" (28 minutes) is a fairly detailed making-of featurette. We get comments from the cast, filmmakers and Julie Powell, as well as Julia Child's grandnephew. The piece takes it time in examining how everyone got involved with the project. From there, we get a look at the film's production and an examination of the movie's subject. "Family & Friends Remember Julia Child" (48 minutes) is a documentary which delves deeper into Child's story from the film. The appeal here is the interviews with those who worked with Child or who were friends with her. "Julia's Kitchen" (23 minutes) takes a look at how Child's kitchen was moved from her house in Massachusetts to the Smithsonian Institute. "Cooking Lessons" offers five segments which show us how to make various dishes. Two of these shorts are clips from Child's show.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long