The movie opens in 1949 France when Julia Child (Meryl Streep) and her husband, Paul (Stanley Tucci), move into their new home – an apartment in Paris, where Paul has been assigned to the American Embassy. The story immediately shifts to 2002 New York, where Julie Powell (Amy Adams) and her husband, Eric (Chris Messina), move into their new home – an apartment in Queens, above a pizzeria.
Julie has a job she hates – interacting with, and taking complaints from families of 9/11 survivors. Julia is bored and wants to do something while in France. She doesn't want to go back to government work (she had been a secretary in the Office of Strategic Services).
So, born out of boredom and an urge to do something with their lives, they take on new projects. Julie adores Julia Child and her culinary skills, so she decides that, over the course of a year, she will cook every recipe in Julia’s 1961 book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The project will involve 524 recipes in 365 days.
For her own edification and as a way of keeping her focused and on track, Julie starts a blog chronicling her progress. She calls it “The Julie/Julia Project.”
Julia decides to take up French cooking. She wants to buy an English-language French cookbook, but can't find any. So, as she wants something to do, she writes one, collaborating with her friends, Simone "Simca" Beck (Linda Emond) and Louisette Bertholle (Helen Carey). The project takes a long, long while, but eventually results in Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
Julie & Julia jumps back and forth between stories, alternating between Julia in France and Julie in New York. It’s 1940s Paris vis-à-vis early 21st Century New York. Their experiences are so alike in so many ways, two parallel lives in two different time zones, in two different eras. However, their similar experiences sometimes lead to contrasting results.
Julie poaches and eats the first egg of her life, and she loves it. The irascible Julia can't stand the beginner's cooking class so she enrolls in the professional class at Le Cordon Bleu. After a slow start, she rises to the top like an elegant cream.
Julia dives right into chopping up a live lobster. Julie is terrified of killing and dismembering her first live lobster, apologizing to it as she dumped it into boiling water. Julie's blog becomes the third-most popular on Salon.com. Julia’s book is a long-time developing as she has to endure rejection and attempts to change what she and her co-authors believe in.
Cue the disasters. Julie has a couple of meltdowns over aspic and a stuffed chicken, and is disheartened when a famous food author has to cancel out on her boeuf bourguignon dinner. Julia fails the Cordon Bleu graduation test.
The New York Times runs an interview with Julie, and she becomes famous, plied with publishing offers. But surviving marital difficulties caused by her project, she also experiences a bit of heartbreak when Julia Child disses the blog.
Julie & Julia is a very touching movie. Amy Adams was endearing, and Meryl Streep was her usual wonderful self with another marvelous performance. However, throughout the movie, although I enjoyed watching Meryl Streep, I couldn’t help thinking that Paul Child was a saint. I mean, I couldn’t stand living with someone who sounded and acted like Julia Child … day after day after day.
Jane Lynch (Glee!) has a brief but humorous appearance as Dorothy McWilliams Cousins, Julia's sister; Mary Lynn Radjskub (24 Hours), appears as Julie's best friend, Sara. Mary Kay Place voices Julie's mother, and Frances Sternhagen appears as Irma Rombauer, who wrote The Joy of Cooking.
Playing a chef is dangerous for an actress' figure; Meryl Streep gained 15 pounds. She was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar. Produced on a budget of $40 million, Julie & Julia grossed nearly $130 million during its domestic and international run.