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Let’s talk about Julie & Julia, because why not?

At the center of this charming movie lies a whip-smart premise. Writer/director Nora Ephron gives us two stories at once; we get a biopic of legendary chef Julia Child and a chronicle of New York blogger Julie Powell. Ephron adapts the material from two books — one by Powell, one by Child. The split narratives unfold with next to no overlap. Child’s story, after all, takes place before Powell was even born.

So far, nothing new. Plenty of films have used a dual- (or tri-, or quad-) narrative structure. Anyone who’s been to an art-house cinema can tell you that.

In Julie & Julia, however, the construction does something special. It urges you to view one story as real and the other as fantasy. In short, the Julia Child portion of the film runs inside Julie Powell’s head. Ephron doesn’t offer a straightforward account of Child’s life. She offers a highly romanticized view of the woman, as imagined by Powell.

Let’s look at the evidence. Julie & Julia strikes constant parallels between its leads: They’re both ambitious, looking to make names for themselves, both married, both seeking to become published writers. But look at how they differ. Child’s husband is an unflappable saint. He remains always by her side, forever supportive, and never once loses his patience with her. He embodies the perfect spouse for the struggling artist. Always giving, never taking. Powell’s husband, meanwhile, does lose his patience. He gets all huffy when she devotes too much time to her ambition and not enough time to him. He becomes a blockade to her success as a writer. (more…)

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