Nora Ephron, the writer and director of beloved films such as Sleepless in Seattle (1993), You've Got Mail (1998), and most recently the brilliant and heartwarming Julie and Julia (2009) died this year on 26 June.
To call her just a film maker would be unfair, considering that she was also a journalist, essayist, playwright, producer, director, and an avid blogger. Beloved by her family, friends, and various audiences, and readers for her wit, charm, and verve – it is with great regret that I review here today her final film Julie and Julia (2009), knowing with a heavy heart that this is the last, scrumptious, imminently re-watchable film that will come from her extraordinarily creative mind.
For anyone who has known and loved the Meg Ryan-type clever, tender, romantic comedies, Julie and Julia will not fail to delight. It has the usual Meg Ryan persona in Amy Adams, who plays the "Julie" part of the title based on the real life memoirs of Julie Powell - a young writer who has a boring desk job and one day, out of frustration and love of cooking, decides to take on Julia Child's comprehensive cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking, tackling each recipe and then blogging about it from her boring nine to five job.
Though this aspect of the film is not boring in any way, one almost pities the very talented Amy Adams who is pitted against the phenomenon of Meryl Streep playing an unforgettable Julia Child as the film flashes back and forth in time, outlining the sometimes hilarious, sometimes painful struggles of these women as they pursue their passion of cooking.
Does this sound light, fluffy, and banal? Light and fluffy yes, but never banal, the film soars with humour and warmth, with a wonderful supporting cast and luscious hunger pang inducing cooking sequences.
As Julia Child faces off with snotty French chefs at the Cordon Bleau who initially turn their nose up at her because she is a woman, she is supported by her loving diplomat husband Paul, played to perfection by Stanley Tucci.
Similarly Julie is also encouraged by her husband Eric (Chris Messina) who is alternately frustrated and delighted, all the while being extremely well-fed, throughout his wife's experiment.
It is not that these films are particularly meaningful or profound, it is just that the Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail, and Julie and Julia trio carry the hallmark of a remarkable woman who clearly knew how to live, and eat, really really well, keeping all important things in perspective, and was somehow also able to channel these skills into some very fine, heartwarming, soul cleansing cinema.
Settling into any of these films is like settling into the arms of a loved one, or dear friend, ready with either a favourite blanket or a glass of excellent red wine and knowing that the next few hours will be bliss.
Ephron's passing induced an astonishing number of loving obituaries and essays memorialising her legendary warmth, her unwavering friendship, and her ability to give perfect advice on everything from how to find the best restaurants to how to travel in perfect comfort.
Tom Hanks, who starred in both Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail wrote that to thank him after one of their collaborations, Ephron called him up to inform him that someone was coming to their house to plant a tree for them, and which kind of fruit tree would they like? They chose oranges, and are nourished by that tree's fruits to this day.
Another favourite anecdote by one of her obituary writers entails overhearing a young woman walking down the street talking on her cell phone saying, "I didn't even know her, but I still feel like crying". This is more or less how I feel, but, having her films to watch is somewhat of a comfort.