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Arts and Entertainment

Movie Review: Julie & Julia

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Review by Ryan Vincent/Special to LAist

The genre of "foodie movies" demands that the Los Angelean viewer have an after-movie plan. If you're seeing Tampopo, make haste for Daikokuya. If it's Soul Food, M&M Soul Food better be no farther than 20 minutes away. And now with Julie & Julia... well really, is there any place in Los Angeles where you can find the exquisite French food featured in the movie? Oh sure, there's Kendall's Brasserie or Church & State. But the best thing about Julie & Julia is that you're gonna wanna cook. Maybe not like Julia Child, but you'll be inspired to break out the pots and pans, and maybe even the pen and paper.

As the movie states, Julie & Julia is "Based on Two True Stories": the story of how Julia Child (played to the hilt by Meryl Streep) came to save American appetites in the 1960s from frozen TV dinners through the publication of her quintessential Mastering The Art of French Cooking, and the story of government bureaucrat Julie Powell's (Amy Adams) cockamamie idea to cook all of that book's 524 recipes in one year in a tiny Queens kitchen after work and blog about it.

Director and screenwriter Nora Ephron expertly weaves together My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme and Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell: Setbacks and triumphs in France with Julia learning to cook the French way are mirrored by Julie's struggles and successful culinary creations in Queens; marital bliss between Child and her wartime spy husband Paul Cushing Child is contrasted with the strains of Powell's marriage to Eric Powell, who comes off in the movie as callous and not at all helpful in the kitchen. After Powell's project gets featured in the New York Times, she hears from a reporter that her heroine, the now 90-year-old Julia Child, has heard of her. Will their paths cross?

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Along with the themes of food, marriage and publishing, the surprisingly hilarious movie is really about the duality of two lives lived decades and continents apart, yet intertwined. Julie's quest to live up to Child's legacy is fraught with peril -- boning a duck, correctly poaching an egg, or (good God, no!) making the meat jello that is aspic. But through food, both women find themselves.

Well, Child found a career on television and books. Powell, to this point, found herself with a book contract. Taking a peek at Amazon.com, it appears that Powell's upcoming book, Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession, documents her journey as a butcher and apparently a philanderer as she apparently wrote about having an affair. Guess that husband of her's should have helped out in the kitchen some more!

So where did this writer go after a screening of Julie & Julia at The Landmark? Why, I simply went downstairs to the Westside Tavern where I tucked into an amazing Beef Short Rib Pot Roast served with carrots, whipped potatoes and orange gremolata. It's debatable whether the dish was French, but Julia definitely would have approved.

Julie & Julia opens Friday.