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’Julie & Julia’ Is Nora Ephron’s Love Letter to Food

Streaming recommendations for the weekend, plus a roundup of the week’s entertainment news

Amazon Video/Julie & Julia

This post originally appeared on August 24, 2018, in “Eat, Drink, Watch” — the weekly newsletter for people who want to order takeout and watch TV. Browse the archives and subscribe now.

Welcome back to Friday afternoon, the amuse-bouche of the weekend. Here are some recommendations for things to watch between now and Monday — two movies and Netflix newcomer — plus a roundup of the week’s food-related entertainment news.

Revisiting ‘Julie & Julia’ Nine Years Later

Amazon Video/Julie & Julia

With the recent success of movies like Crazy Rich Asians and Set it Up, there has been a lot of chatter among Hollywood-watchers about whether the romantic-comedy, a genre that ruled the ’90s, is poised for a comeback. The rom-com buzz got me thinking about how the late Nora Ephron perfected the genre, and how her last film is a strong contender for the best food-themed rom-com of all time. And so, with that and Julia Child’s recent birthday in mind, I decided to rewatch Julie & Julia for the first time since its release back in 2009.

The movie tells the split story of how Julia Child (played by Meryl Streep) wrote Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and how blogger Julie Powell (portrayed by Amy Adams) wrote a hit blog about that cookbook. Julie & Julia still holds up, but it now feels dated in a great way. Here are some things that surprised me about this film, nine years later:

These characters are hungry, thirsty, and horny: There are several moments in the film where the spouses are so turned on by a new dish that they start making out right there in the kitchen or dining room. Both couples also love swigging wine and mixed drinks — before, during, and after meals. And in one of the movie’s stranger scenes, Julie and her husband are shown gulping martinis from huge glasses while watching an SNL sketch about Julia Child, in its entirety, on their couch.

Food is the romantic lead: Julie and Julia are both married to menches who encourage them in their careers and rarely cause any sort of drama. But the movie is really about how these heroines fall in love with making food. Adhering to a common rom-com trope, the new relationships are fraught with difficulty, but the characters grow both personally and professionally through the process of navigating this new world.

Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci are a match made in heaven: Nora Ephron clearly understood that these two actors had great chemistry together. Many of their scenes are just pleasant little slices of domestic bliss in Paris… and yet none of them feel like filler. Best of all is the weird montage of Julia and her husband Paul (played by Tucci) taking photos for holiday cards, which includes this gem:

Amazon Video/Julie & Julia

It’s a feast for the eyes: From the first shots of toast overloaded with olive oil-slicked summer tomatoes, to the final dinner scene where Julie presents her majestic pastry-wrapped duck, this movie is loaded with memorable food shots. Beyond just the food porn, the film also celebrates the thrills of eating — in fancy restaurants, at the produce market, and over the stove with a ladle pulled up to your lips.

It’s an ode to the golden era of food blogs: Although the film is ostensibly about the earliest phase of food blogging — 2002, right when Blogspot was starting to pop off — Julie & Julia really reflects the mid-2000s, when food blogs like Eater entered the fray and changed the conversation. It’s also when critics like Frank Bruni (who has a sneaky cameo in one of the last scenes of the film) started to write blog posts in addition to regular print reviews. The movie is imbued with a reverence for food writing and personal blogging that feels sweetly dated in the Instagram age.

If (and when) the major studios decide to make more rom-coms, I hope they look to Julie & Julia for inspiration. Find it on Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play, and iTunes.


Amazon Video/Julie & Julia

Kim’s Convenience, “Best Before”

Find it on: Netflix

The gist: This new Netflix arrival, which is about a Korean-Canadian family that operates a convenience store, floats somewhere between a sitcom and a drama. To get a good sense of this show’s unique vibe, check out this episode, which includes both big comedic bits, and quiet, tense moments between the Kim parents and their children.

“Best Before” begins with Janet (played by Andrea Bang) questioning her dad Kim Sang-il (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) about why he’s selling expired cans of ravioli, two for $2, at his store. To prove to his daughter that expiration dates are just a marketing ploy, the dad opens up a can and begins chomping down on the noodles, without breaking eye-contact with Janet. Meanwhile, family matriarch Kim Yong-mi (Jean Yoon) is helping set up a church luncheon when she discovers that her son Jung (Simu Liu) — who distanced himself from the family several years ago — is at the event and ready to mix and mingle with the congregation. Both the ravioli sale and church luncheon go awry, but these incidents bring the members of the Kim family closer together.

Kim’s Convenience is a sweet little show that feels destined to become a cult hit in America now that it’s on Netflix.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Watch it on: Hulu

The gist: You’ve seen Jiro Dreams of Sushi, right? If the answer is no, please stop reading this newsletter and hop on over to Hulu, where David Gelb’s seminal food documentary is now streaming. This movie, which came out in 2011, helped shape the look and feel of food documentaries for years to come.

The film presents chef Jiro Ono — now 92 — as the irreplaceable driving force behind a tiny sushi counter inside a Tokyo subway station that some gourmands believe to be the best restaurant in the whole damn world. Through learning about Jiro’s story, you also get insights about the lives (and struggles) of the chefs who work in his kitchen, including Daisuke Nakazawa, who had the damndest time mastering the art of preparing tamagoyaki, but now operates one of Manhattan’s only four-star restaurants.

More than any other food documentary from the last decade, Jirochanged the way that audiences think about chefs and their relationship to rarified cuisine. Gelb later took this formula to great heights with Chef’s Table, but his original culinary documentary remains essential viewing for food lovers.


In other entertainment news…

Have a great weekend, and if you’re looking for something just a bit fancy to make for breakfast or brunch, consider whipping up some of Eric Ripert’s favorite crepes.

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