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Julie & Julia DVD Review

Julie & Julia movie poster Julie & Julia

Theatrical Release: August 7, 2009 / Running Time: 123 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Nora Ephron / Writers: Nora Ephron (screenplay), Julie Powell, Julia Child, Alex Prud'homme (books)

Cast: Meryl Streep (Julia Child), Amy Adams (Julie Powell), Stanley Tucci (Paul Child), Chris Messina (Eric Powell), Linda Emond (Simone "Simca" Beck), Mary Jane Rajskub (Sarah), Jane Lynch (Dorothy McWilliams), Frances Sternhagen (Irma Rombauer), Helen Carey (Louisette Bertholle), Deborah Rush (Avis De Voto), Joan Juliet Buck (Madame Brassart), Vanessa Ferlito (Cassie), Casey Wilson (Regina), Jillian Bach (Annabelle Smith), Erin Dilly (Judith Jones), Amanda Hesser (Herself), Mary Kay Place (Voice of Julie's Mom)

Buy on DVD from Amazon.com • Buy on Blu-ray Disc from Amazon.com

Julie & Julia is based on two true stories, neither of which may be very well known by its typical viewer. Julie is Julie Powell (Amy Adams), a young woman from Texas
now living modestly with her husband in an above-pizzeria Queens, NY apartment. While her friends have moved up to important jobs that keep them occupied and wired, Julie is merely taking phone calls from residents dissatisfied with plans to redevelop lower Manhattan in the wake of 9/11. About to turn 30 with little to show for it, she decides to turn a hobby into something more by boldly committing to cook all of the 524 recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Julie plans to document this one-year experiment in a Salon.com blog.

As if you haven't already guessed it, Julia is indeed Julia Child (Meryl Streep), the chef famous for her public television cooking shows. Child's story told here predates her TV fame. We're shown her life in Paris, as she takes her first culinary class and eventually comes to collaborate on an influential, epic cookbook.

Killing a lobster is one of the tasks Julie Powell (Amy Adams) most fears and dreads in vowing to cook through Julia Child's famous French cookbook. Towering over her male classmates, Julia Child (Meryl Streep) tilts back to celebrate her successful omelet flip in culinary class.

Adapted by director Nora Ephron from the autobiographical texts of Powell and Child, Julie & Julia bounces between 1950s Europe and 2002 New York, telling the stories of two strong women invigorated by French cuisine and writing. Ephron finds parallels between the titular ladies and wisely presents them in an understated fashion. Neither tale needs the other to exist, but bound together and claiming equal screentime, the two are strengthened to exceed the sum of their parts.

Of the narratives, the modern one is more compelling. There's ample appeal in the dead-end temp worker finding her creative outlet. Amy Adams doesn't supply the naivetι she's quickly come to be known for, but brings the spunk necessary to render her plain-Jane protagonist sympathetic and inspiring. On a personal note, the film does a fine job of conveying the unique thrills of electronic self-publishing for a large, faceless audience.

Decorated acting legend Meryl Streep seizes the flashier part in the tall, loud, passionate Julia Child. It is no surprise that Streep replicates Child's familiar voice and mannerisms. But it's appreciated that she doesn't play the chef as pure caricature (something Dan Aykroyd does in a vintage "Saturday Night Live" clip that is admired at length), believable though that may have been. This Child is as human as one can imagine while staying true to the unique persona broadcast for over 35 years. Happily, her accomplishments are not overdramatized or exaggerated. Stanley Tucci plays Child's dwarfed, supportive U.S. government employee husband.

Julia Child (Meryl Streep) has a sturdy source of support in her bald, mustachioed husband Paul (Stanley Tucci). Julie's husband Eric (Chris Messina) enjoys eating this chocolate cake and other meals she prepares.

Nora Ephron has a fairly spotty filmmaking record. The simplicity and sentimentality of her most beloved Oscar-nominated screenplays (When Harry Met Sally..., Sleepless in Seattle) seem to be as underrecognized as the funny concepts found in her less acclaimed works (My Blue Heaven, Bewitched). With ample opportunity to go wrong in this parallel piece, the writer-director avoids it.
The film is funny but not achingly so, and it doesn't stop to admire its humor or perceivable cutesiness. It is a crowd-pleaser, but not hung up on being one. This dramedy is smart, engaging, well-crafted, and authentic. Even the element that seems most likely to be manufactured (marital strain born out of Julie's devotion to her project) plays out with tact.

Julie & Julia opened in theaters four months ahead of the year-end award season blitz, getting released alongside the last of the big summer blockbusters. That timing no doubt helped the film find an audience as counterprogramming, grossing a robust $94 million domestically, easily crossing the $100 M mark worldwide, and giving Ephron her first real hit since 1998's You've Got Mail (which was only three credits ago for her). And despite the voting parties' notoriously limited memory, the film is still in the discourse to contend for some Academy Awards. Record 15-time nominee (and two-time winner) Streep is the most likely to be recognized, but Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actress (an honor not really befitting true lead Amy Adams), and even (recently-expanded) Picture are not out of the question, should voters remember back to summer. A nod in the Golden Globes' Comedy/Musical category seems all but certain.

A widely-promoted holiday season home video release should help and that is what Sony grants Julie & Julia next Tuesday in single-disc DVD and Blu-ray releases.

Buy Julie & Julia on DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English, Descriptive Video Service, French)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French
Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled in English
Release Date: December 8, 2009
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $19.94 (Reduced from $28.96)
Black Keepcase
Also available on Blu-ray Disc ($24.95 SRP, reduced from $34.95)


On DVD, Julie & Julia appears in its 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio. The picture is utterly satisfying. It is as clean, sharp, and detailed as you'd hope and expect a modern studio film to be. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack largely just keeps to the front channels, but it doesn't disappoint with its crisp delivery of dialogue and music. A French dub and a descriptive track for English-speaking blind are also offered.

Writer/director/foodie/blogger Nora Ephron discusses her film in the DVD's audio commentary and in front of a New York City backdrop visual for featurette "Secret Ingredients." Amy Adams makes a proud face in the clip part of the DVD's sepia-toned, animated, cookbook-inspired main menu.


Julie & Julia has an unusually light menu of extras on DVD. First up is "Secret Ingredients: Creating Julie & Julia" (27:42), a good making-of featurette. Covered in this overview of production are the cast (down to Terry the cat) and their real life counterparts, the food, the actress' previous cooking skills, and the settings.
It does more talking than showing, but we do get to hear from every major player on the film, including the real Julie Powell and Julia Child's niece.

Next and last is an audio commentary by writer/director Nora Ephron, which is far less lively than the film and contains quite a bit of dead air. When she speaks, Ephron does have some moderately interesting things to say, such as how much of the film is faithful to documented reality. The filmmaker also shares some production experiences regarding filming locations, cast members, and tricks used to make Streep look Child's height. The most fascinating stretch comes near the end, as Ephron remarks upon the real Child's feelings toward the real Julie's blog.

The concurrent Blu-ray release, whose list price is $11 higher and which is currently selling for as much as $24 more than the DVD counterpart, includes a number of exclusive bonus features: featurette "Family & Friends Remember Julia Child", a tour of Child's kitchen exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, five cooking lessons, and an interactive "Recipe Collector" playback mode.

The DVD opens with an anti-smoking spot and ads for Did You Hear About the Morgans?, an upcoming Ice Castles remake, Bright Star, Coco Before Chanel, and, two blasts from Ephron's past, Sleepless in Seattle and Hanging Up. The Previews menu holds additional trailers for The Accidental Husband, Michael Jackson's This Is It, An Education, Whatever Works, and Hachi: A Dog's Tale.

The stylish main menu animates cooking utensils, directions, and images of the two ladies. Submenus give a silent, simplified version of that design. The lone insert inside the ecologically-cut black keepcase promotes a cooking-themed sweepstakes inspired by the film.

Amy Adams' performance as Julie Powell represents one of cinema's first depictions of a real life blogger. (As this shot illustrates, the film isn't above Sony's signature product placement.) At a Valentine's Day dinner, smiling Julia Child (Meryl Streep) places her hand between her real and decorative hearts.


Julie & Julia is a pretty solid film that ranks among the year's best so far. The cast does nice work, Ephron's script and direction shun sap and obviousness, and the proceedings are accessible without feeling dumbed down. Most viewers will not only enjoy this, but also come away with some appreciation for cooking and blogging. It's unfortunate that most of the extras have been needlessly left off the DVD, which will handily surpass the Blu-ray release in sales. Still, the feature presentation satisfies and with the severe pre-street discounting (Amazon is selling it for just $9.99), this disc earns an easy recommendation.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon: DVD / Blu-ray / The Books: Julie & Julia, My Life in France

Buy from Amazon.com

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Reviewed November 30, 2009.

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