FILM REVIEW: Julie & Julia (12A)

A film about one woman writing a cookbook and another one cooking her way through it 50 years later was never going to be edge-of-the-seat stuff.

But there's still abundant charm in Nora Ephron's new film '“ even if, rather souffl-like, it leaves you hankering for something rather more substantial afterwards.

Combining two real stories, it's an unusual concoction which unravels two tales half a century apart by intercutting them as the two ladies in question seek to give their life a purpose.

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In the 1950s we have Julia Child (Meryl Streep) who follows her diplomat husband to France and embarks on a cookery course to fill her days. Americans will know that she became a celebrated cookery writer, with her 'servantless' approach to mastering French cuisine.

In the present-day we have Julie Powell (Amy Adams), an office clerk, left behind by contemporaries she doesn't want to emulate. Bored and unfulfilled, all she knows is that she feels at home in the kitchen, and so she cooks up a plan to cook and blog her way through Child's famous cookbook.

If you know who Julia Child was, presumably you can revel in the accuracy of Streep's portrayal. If you don't '“ and this is the film's big stumbling block '“ you'll soon weary of Streep's portrayal of a mannered old bore who dippily cooks her way through a fairly empty life.

Far more interesting is Julie in the present day, a frustrated soul who's finally barking up the right tree when she starts lauding the beauty of butter and stuffing chickens with all manner of lardy things.

This definitely isn't a film for us squeamish veggies.

Nor is it a film for anyone doubtful of cooking's merits as a spectator sport.

But there is still much to commend it. Amy Adams is an increasingly impressive actress. Superb in Enchanted, she's great at hinting at the frustrations of her rather deeper character here. She does neurotic rather well.

France too enjoys a lovely cameo, a setting beautifully evoked in

great detail in the post-war years. And there is also much fun and a fair amount of feeling to be had through the juxtaposition of the

two women's lives.

But like the meals we endlessly see being prepared, this film's pleasures are fairly fleeting.

Phil Hewitt's rating: ***

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