Friday, July 10, 2009

Movie review: Julie & Julia

Adams, Streep
and plenty of butter
combine in recipe
for charming film

For the second time in less than a year, Meryl Streep and Amy Adams are together again on the big screen – sort of.

The movie this time around, “Julie & Julia,” combines food, relationships and writing, all of which are close to my heart (and tummy). That, along with the appealing co-stars and an overdose of charm, accounts for why I so enjoyed it during a preview screening Thursday night courtesy of the Maryland Film Festival.

You’d also think it makes for a perfect chick flick, but wife Bonnie Schupp wasn’t as enamored and gave “J&J” a pair of downer digits. Her main complaint: Insufficient conflict.

Well, we managed to disagree with each other on the ride home – but with even less actual conflict than contained in the plot. She also felt it dragged a bit.

But since this is my blog (and I do most of the cooking in our kitchen), I get an extra vote. That’s only fair.

In parallel story lines half a century apart, Streep playfully depicts the mid-life period in which Child takes her first cooking lessons and embarks with two friends on the book project that would help make her famous, while Adams takes on the role of wannabe writer Julie Powell, who at the suggestion of her husband begins blogging on a subject near to her heart: Cooking.

And it’s not just any kind of cooking, but taking on all 524 recipes in Child and friends’ famed “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” in 365 days.

Predictably, the blog gets some notice and by the end of the story, Julie seems to be on her way toward a book deal, and Julia is last seen as a copy of her own just-published book arrives in the mail. Two women – both writers and cooks -- some 50 years apart, one channeling the other.

A few quibbles: What served for conflict between Julie and her husband seemed contrived, and the setting of the last meal from the book – on a rooftop with a magical million-dollar New York view – came a little out of nowhere, given their bland 900-square-foot apartment on the floor above a working-class neighborhood pizzaria.

Streep and Adams were last paired as nuns in the harder-hitting drama “Doubt,” focusing on suspected priestly sexual abuse of a young Catholic boy. Bonnie and I also disagreed on that film – she liked it a lot, and I was ambivalent. It was hardly a chick flick.

In their new film, written for the screen and directed by Nora Ephron, Streep was amazingly believable as Julia, and Adams an appealing and alluring 30-year-old Julie. I would have been thrilled to sit down at the dinner table with either of them, but I’ll settle for the movie. It was just charming, and the world needs a little more of that these days.

Julie & Julia opens nationwide Aug. 7. I can only hope your theater offers up some French pastries instead of the usual popcorn and butter-flavored oil that doubtless would make both characters ill.

For more about the film, check out its Web site at

Speaking of food blogs

My old pal Cheryl Tan, who formerly wrote at The Baltimore Sun and Wall Street Journal among other accomplishments, has a deal on writing a book and been blogging on food since April, so she can’t be accused of playing copycat here.

And her blog is a terrific read. Check it out at

It usually makes me hungry, but then some of the food she discovers also makes me cringe… and laugh at the same time.

Blogging vacation

I am amazed that dozens of people have visited The Real Muck each day, even though I’d taken a break through largely unintended summer laziness since my last posting on June 11 – on the Holocaust museum shooting.

Since then, the world has rolled on quite nicely – well, with a few newsy bumps in the road. Pop star Michael Jackson and football quarterback Steve McNair went belly-up, each in bizarre fashion, and there’s been unrest in Iran, American refocusing of war efforts back in the country where it first belonged, and my favorite baseball team lingers in last-place despite many new and promising players. At least in baseball, I look forward to next year with a little more optimism.

Among the subjects covered earlier by The Real Muck, a few need updates… like the last man out at The Baltimore Sun in the wake of the newsroom personnel massacre, and the season-ender for the Baltimore Burn women’s tackle football team.

At The Sun, talented reporter Gadi Dechter took a voluntary layoff last month, collecting a few weeks’ pay and saving a job slot for some other colleague at the downsizing Tribune Co.-owned newspaper. Dechter first made a name for himself locally at the weekly City Paper, where he reported on local media including The Sun – which then brought him aboard and gave him the beat on higher education, and subsequently the State House.

Unlike most others leaving the newspaper recently, Dechter had a new job already lined up – at Bloomberg News Service. He bid farewell in a heartfelt note telling of his fears of being inexperienced and inadequate when he joined The Sun, and thanking colleagues for giving him support and encouragement. He was, and remains, a class act – and from the day he arrived on the staff had far more talent than he gave himself credit for.

On the gridiron, the Burn ladies finished with a 5-3 record, according to Women’s Football Alliance league statistics -- a hair short of the playoffs as a divisional runner-up. The last game on the schedule didn’t happen as the New Jersey Titans bused in to Baltimore, where a pre-game rain had left a few muddy pools in an otherwise mowed-and-fit City College field, and refused to play. Oddly, the league Web site lists the game as a 6-0 win by the Titans. Go figure.

The Burn lost twice during the season to the undefeated Philadelphia Liberty Belles – the first time on a lopsided score of 43-8, but the second much closer at 13-10 after a late-game heart-breaker Burn fumble near the Belles’ goal line. The difference in the scoring showed just how much the Burn had improved over the course of the season.

The Burn Web site ( reports that the first tryouts for the 2010 season will take place at noon on Saturday, August 8, at Herring Run Park. If you check out the Web site’s Picture Gallery, you’ll find many of the 2009 game and team photos were taken by Bonnie, whose free efforts won her the designation “team photographer.” There’s links at the site to Bonnie’s football game photos at SmugMug, where devoted Burn fans (and staffers, players and their friends and relatives) can order prints at nominal prices.
Today's fortune cookie message
You will make a profitable investment.
Daily number: 140


D. said...

Hey, at least your baseball team is doing better than my baseball team!

I tried to watch cooking shows in the olden days, but the only one I could tolerate was the original version of Iron Chef. Go figure.

movies said...

Wow, i loved this movie, it was really cute! they sure got me the urge to go to the kitchen and cook something tasty for my family :)