… Mickey Mouse …

This movie weaves between two stories, one from the past and one current.  The good part lets us in on Julia Child’s early years in Paris, her ecstatic discoveries of French food, the pleasures of the good life she shared with her husband, and how she became a chef and author.  Julia, her husband, played with touching warmth by Anthony Tucci, Paris, the food all look wonderful.  Meryl Streep captures Julia’s flighty, deep, tony voice, her bulky occupation of space that goes hand in hand with her alarming and amusing clumsiness, and her perseverance.  Julia Child lives before our eyes in that fascinating fluctuation of yes it’s her but after all it can’t be like watching Philip Seymour Hoffman as Capote or David Strathaim as Edward R. Murrow in Good Night, and Good Luck.

What an annoyance that the contemporary story of feckless Julie keeps rudely interrupting the genuine Julia!  Julie, played by Amy Adams, living with her husband in “Astoria” (spoken as if the word “Astoria”, in Queens, NY is some kind of exile, which it isn’t) lacks a sense of purpose, so she sets about cooking through all the recipes in Julia Child’s book written with two other chefs, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in one year and, at her husband’s suggestion, records it all in a blog.  Her blog becomes a success and she wins a book contract.

In the movie, outside of being able to follow the directions in a cookbook, Julie has nothing special to offer.  Her too-cuteness and bemusement over boning a duck don’t compensate for her boring self-involvement.  Under a strain to be interesting, the Julie scenes unwind into slapstick.  Julia Child took no interest in Julie’s project.  How right she was.  It all but spoils her movie.  And Meryl Streep all but saves it, so in the upshot, it’s worth seeing if you’re drawn to Julia Child.

The relationship between Julia and Julie reminds me of what  Stephen Jay Gould showed happened to Mickey Mouse — at first he was a feisty, self-assured mouse with a good long, sharp mouse’s nose but over time softened up, turning into today’s baby faced spinoff of the original Mickey, with a so cute little nose. 

On a culinary note:  Since I’ve made Julia Child’s boeuf bourguignon, which features prominently in the movie, I feel I should say it doesn’t come out looking like that web of sticky-looking carrots on top.