Biopics are tricky things. When the inspiration for a film is a real person's life, there's a severely limited range of possible outcomes, and the opportunities for plot points. Nora Ephron's latest film, Julie and Julie, has a unique way of dealing with the often static or clumsy nature of the biopic. Instead of telling one story, it tells two – those of the eponymous Julie, a reluctant, almost-thirty government worker who starts a cooking blog in 2002 Queens, and of Julia Child, the famous chef and co-author of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, the book that serves as the blueprint for Julie's blog.
The film is based on a book of the same name, but since I haven't read it, I can't speak to how faithful the adaptation remains, nor do I know how the book handled the "Julia" part of the story. As fascinating and remarkable a subject as Julia Child was bound to have a film made about her eventually, and her scenes in this movie are unfailingly charming. Both stories, in fact, are interesting and engaging, well cast and marvelously acted (of course) by Amy Adams and Meryl Streep. But it's the intersection of the two stories, their parallels despite 50 years of separation, that reveal the art of the movie's 2-story device.
Julie and Julia isn't a perfect movie; it has some moments of forced conflict, including a scene where a personal crisis for Julie is resolved by her personal discovery that she is "a bitch," and the film ends with a truly odd and abrupt freeze-frame, but maybe I'm being picky. The real issue here is that the movie is bound to seem saccharin to some, as sweet films often do. But touching films don't have to be silly, and this one isn't. There is a moment near the end of the film when a potential publisher cooks a dish from the manuscript of French Cooking, not yet knowing that she's about to produce one of history's most famous cookbooks. As she leans over for a second taste of the delicious product of her labor, engrossed in her labour, a bit of wine sauce splashes out into the pages of the recipe. It's a moment that anyone who loves to cook would savor. Sure, it's sweet. But for my part, I don't mind sweet, especially when it comes from the kitchen.