Pearls and Panache in the Kitchen…

Julie & Julia

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Nora Ephron’s latest film Julie & Julia – follows two separate but true stories about Julia Child rise to fame through French cuisine by surviving the McCarthy era in Paris learning Gourmet Cuisine and 50 years on, Julie Powell’s blog account of a year of cooking exquisite dishes from the famed recipe book that was Julia Child’s piece de resistance, Mastering the Art of French Cooking and how it got to be published in 1961.

Child having spent years in Paris with her diplomat husband, took up Gourmet cooking lessons and was determined to eventually introduce French cuisine to the American home.

While Ephron’s film should be treated as a comedy and a gastrononic delight it by no means rivals the brilliant Babette’s Feast or Chocolat. While films whose main subject is cuisine is always difficult to market, Ephron manages through a fairly quirky script to capture the two distinct eras that both her heroines lived in. Child and her husband had to deal with the McCarthy era, where everyone was treated with suspicion due to Communist paranoia sweeping America, not helped by their early years spent in China.

Juliet Powell and her husband Eric played by Chris Messina lead a less glamorous life across the pond, in Queens, New York where Powell sets herself a blogging and cooking deadline of a year to cook every recipe in Child’s bible on French cuisine as a way of distracting her from a call centre job dealing with the families and relatives of 9/11 in 2002.

While there was 50 years apart in their lives, both women were trying not to deal with the realities of a world that did not make sense.  And who could blame them? Post 9/11 New York and Post World War II Paris are vastly different, yet with some delicious recipes to lose themselves in, Julie and Julia proved that like any man, a woman can be just as determined, passionate and steadfast in their goals especially in achieving success, whether it be domestic or literary.

Julia Child's original kitchen

Julia Child’s original kitchen

Obliquely the film, also comments subtly on the rise of celebrity cult status and how historical references shape a characters lives so distinctly. Most notable are the wonderful shots of Paris and the diplomatic parties that Julia Child attends and eventually cooks for contrasting with a replica of her Cambridge, Massachusetts kitchen built especially for the tall woman she was, so elegantly displayed at the Smithsonian in Washington DC, where Julie eventually, like a worshiper at a sacred site, leaves a pound of butter as a fitting tribute to her gastronomic inspiration.

Julie & Julia is by far means not a brilliant film, but it will evoke an appetite for some superb, tangy and tantalizing gourmet dishes and give the audience a new appreciation of de-boning a duck, whilst wearing pearls in the kitchen and appearing relatively calm.

See it and enjoy the meals, yet its far from a cinematic feast, flawed with shoddy editing and uneven directing, whilst saved by a eclectic score by Alexandre Desplat who excelled in The Queen and of course by the ever versatile and brilliant Meryl Streep.

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