More or less entirely delightful, Julie & Julia has a pretty foolproof formula: It's a movie based on a popular book that's based on a popular blog that, in turn, was inspired by America's most popular chef. And the master of the chick flick, Nora Ephron, directs the thing, and Meryl Streep plays Julia Child, and Amy Adams plays Julie Powell, the New Yorker who decided to blog about cooking all 524 recipes in Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year.
Julie & Julia kicks back and forth between Powell's attempts at those 524 recipes—an endeavor which simultaneously gives her purpose and strains her marriage with her husband, Eric (Chris Messina)—and Child's experiences decades earlier in France, as detailed in her aptly titled memoir My Life in France. Child, who's living in Paris because her state department-employed husband, Paul (Stanley Tucci), has been assigned there, delights in the culinary culture of France, takes her first cooking class, and begins writing a cookbook. And throughout, regardless of the timeframe, Ephron's camera lingers over enough tantalizing close-ups of fancy-pants dishes that foodies in the audience will probably start furiously masturbating.
Admittedly, Powell's idea for a blog feels slight to begin with, and Ephron doesn't give it much more weight; meanwhile, Child's more interesting life gets a short shrift thanks to Julie & Julia's dual narrative. But what makes Julie & Julia so engaging are the performances: Streep is predictably excellent as the immensely likeable Child (I'll even go so far as to say she turns in the best portrayal of Child since Dan Aykroyd played the chef on Saturday Night Live); Adams, who is always fantastic and charming and will probably end up marrying me someday, is predictably fantastic and charming as Julie; and Messina and Tucci, as the two dudes tasked with keeping a token level of testosterone onscreen, do their admirable best. Even when Ephron tries to force things into sappy melodrama territory, and despite the fact that, bewilderingly, not a single person in the film notes the endless comedic potential of the oft-repeated phrase "boning a duck," Julie & Julia is still entertaining, enjoyable, and good-hearted throughout.