Julie & Julia is a 2009 American comedy-drama film written and directed by Nora Ephron, starring Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, and Chris Messina. The film contrasts the actual life of renowned chef, Julia Child (Meryl Streep in the film), in the early years of her culinary career in the 1960s with the life of a young New Yorker, Julie Powell (Amy Adams in the film), who aspires to cook all 524 recipes in Child’s cookbook in 365 days, a challenge she describes on her popular blog that later makes her a published author.
The directorial brilliance is reflected at a great scale: Ephron carefully chooses the color scheming to contrast two eras separated by a gap of forty years; a slightly beige-shaded lens is used to represent the 1960s era in which Julia Child is placed, whereas Julie Powell is placed in a modern, urban setting of the busy New York City.
Streep has been widely praised for her scintillating performance as Child. Movie critic A. O. Scott of The New York Times affirmed, “By now [Streep] has exhausted every superlative that exists and to suggest that she has outdone herself is only to say that she’s done it again. Her performance goes beyond physical imitation, though she has the rounded shoulders and the fluting voice down perfectly”.
Turned into a light, comic-drama that all audiences can conveniently enjoy, the film is a remarkable representation of how women, especially housewives like Julia Child (before getting famous), in the 1960s, felt a malignant and pervasive void eating their lives out: the void that was heavily pronounced by a lack of motives and objectivity in life. The film shows how women at every level are capable of pursuing their individuality; being an ordinary wife, Child realizes that food is something that she loves, and develops her love for food into the objective of pursuing her individuality in life. She attends French cooking classes and later gets worldwide famous for the revolution that she brings to American kitchens with her unique French-culinary skills.
Child’s life is contrasted with that of Julie Powell’s, a young New Yorker, living in the year 2003. Like Child, Powell too, has a sense of monotony eroding her life. Being a government official, she has a mundane routine and feels like her life is succumbing to this ceaseless attrition. Powell loves to write, but so much has she been bogged down by societal impediments like family and an insipid work routine that it is insurmountable for her to complete whatever piece she begins to write, hence in order to spice her life up, she takes up the challenge of making 524 recipes from Julia Child’s cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in 365 days. This challenge itself is very significant in understanding how the film encourages women to believe in themselves and their pursuits. Despite strenuous difficulties, Powell completes the challenge, and throughout the time, she blogs about her experiences with each recipe. The blog eventually gets across hundreds of people and it all condenses to make Powell a published author—which was her most-yearned-for desire from the very beginning.
The film boils down to putting across the notion that any woman is capable of pursuing her goals if she sets them right and makes up her mind to pursue them consciously.
Ephron has very meticulously layered all scenes with comic and somber undertones. She has powerfully shaded a comic-drama with the element of putting across the proposition of having a society where men would treat women equally and encourage them to go after their choices, dreams, ambitions and fulfillments. In both situations, Child’s and Powell’s, the husbands are very cooperative and understanding, giving their wives the freedom to exercise their own will to power, which is how then the society at large is able to benefit from the productive resource that women are able to contribute, in their individual capacities, to the social reservoir.