On one end, you have the Oscar-winning diva Meryl Streep, all blustery sweetness as trailblazing chef Julia Child. On the other, you have the delightful redhead Amy Adams as neurotic darling Julia Powell, the New Yorker who aspires to be like the aforementioned culinary goddess.
The women were last seen butting heads as virtue-upholding nuns in "Doubt," but now here they are for your adoring pleasure in "Julie & Julia." And let me tell you this: You probably won't see a movie this year that coasts on the million-dollar charm of its two stars more than this one.
These two are never in the same scene together. Split into different points in time, "Julie" bounces back and forth, showing two women struggling to develop an identity for themselves.
The movie begins with Streep's Child making a home in Paris, circa 1949, with her devoted husband (Stanley Tucci), getting seriously seduced by the butter-enriched food. She eventually decides to study at Le Cordon Bleu and collaborates with two fellow female chefs on writing a cookbook.
Cut to Queens, circa 2002. Adams' Julie has just moved above a pizzeria with her devoted husband (Chris Messina) and feels quite unfulfilled now that she's turning 30. So she decides to spend the following year cooking all 524 recipes in Child's cookbook, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," and blogging about it.
To be quite honest, I'm sure you can have Streep and Adams sharing a chicken fajita omelette at IHOP for two hours on-screen and audiences will, pardon the expression, eat it up. They're both lovable ladies. Streep, who's beginning to become the most trusted name in female-friendly flicks, has too much fun playing Child. Walking around like a jolly, daffy dame still getting used to her beanstalk frame (in some scenes, she resembles Vincent D'Onofrio's alien-possessed farmer from "Men in Black"), she's more animated than I've ever seen her. It's as though she picked up more mannerisms from "The Muppet Show" than from Child. Meanwhile, Adams works that plucky, in-demand smile of hers, pouring a nice heaping of likability into a character who could've been easily been played as just another shrill, 30-something gal.
Unfortunately, they both star in a movie written and directed by Nora Ephron, which means even their charisma can't keep this movie from eventually running out of steam. Ephron, whom I will never forgive for "Bewitched" (seriously, what was that all about? Does anyone know?), still can't make a well-rounded story that goes the distance and completely utilizes her stars and everyone else on-screen. (With the exception of the husbands, who are actually characterized as decent, loving human beings, nearly most of the barely written characters look as if they were plucked out of a TV movie on the Oxygen channel.) And all the tantalizing close-ups of mouth-watering dishes Ephron throws in here can't hide that.
Even though Ephron adapted the script from two books, Powell's titular memoir and Child's autobiography "My Life in France," the movie is bereft of dramatic conflict. And the conflicts that do arise (Julia bounces from city to city while trying to finish her book, while Julie has the odd meltdown while working on both food and her marriage) barely fill the gaps.
And yet, it's a movie starring two actresses you couldn't resist if you tried -- and I have tried. (Read my reviews of "The Devil Wears Prada" and "Enchanted" to see if I'm lying.) Even when they're nowhere near each other, Streep and Adams make a good team. They make something as lightweight and fluffy as "Julie" more delicious and delectable than any crowd-pleaser I've seen recently.
While everyone else will gorge on the gluttonous junk of "G.I. Joe," more sensible folk may end up getting properly stuffed on "Julie & Julia."