(Nora Ephron, 2009)
Really two movies in one, Ephron's film (perhaps unsurprisingly) adapts two books, twists them together into a sort of French plait, and just about makes it all work. It has the feel of a classic Hollywood entertainment; it's handsome, adroitly mixes drama and comedy, has a couple of strong roles for its leading ladies, and is never less than winning.
The twin storylines are shuffled throughout, usually in blocks of scenes, but occasionally within montages. The first follows legendary American cook/author/television personality Julia Childs (Meryl Streep) as she moves to Europe with her diplomat husband (Stanley Tucci) in the late 1940s, discovers French food and a sort of vocation as a cook and teacher, and begins to write her famous cookbook. The second follows Julie Powell (Amy Adams), a twentysomething on the brink of her thirties in contemporary New York who begins a project blogging an account of her attempt to cook every single recipe in Childs' book in one year.
For Powell, plainly struggling in a job that is a little beneath her after a promising youth, the blog gives her a focus and a vehicle for a writing talent she has almost abandoned, which is contrasted with the innocence and joy of Childs' attempt to become a cook buoyed by her own confident and enormous personality.
The pleasures here, then, are Ephron's often very witty screenplay, and her insistence on grounding the modern scenes in a recognisable - if very bourgeois - world of stressed commuting, tiring jobs, petty marital tensions and dreams that never really came true. Adams and Chris Messina (as her husband) are both charming as a perhaps too-perfect couple but their minor stresses ands problems are believably banal and contrast nicely with the Childs and their wandering across European cities due to his job, and more pointedly, with the spectre of McCarthyism and an inability to conceive a child which are more serious negatives in their married life.
Streep is characteristically fine, offering a great impression of Childs but not at the expense of any emotional subtlety, and Tucci is his usual reliable self, much of their work done against the backdrop of a picture postcard 1950s Paris, all golden sunlight and shuttered windows, again in sharp contrast with Powell's apartment above a Pizza parlour in Queens.
It all ends in blissful happiness and huge success, and is, of course, determinedly slight. But that is beside the point: it works extraordinarily well for the most part.