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Cooking Leads to Happiness in Comedy 'Julie & Julia'

Oscar-winner Meryl Streep portrays famed chef Julia Child and Amy Adams co-stars as present-day author Julie Powell in a delicious comedy about their intersecting paths to happiness: paths, not coincidentally, that lead straight to the kitchen. Here's a look at the new film by writer/director Nora Ephron, Julie & Julia.

It is Paris right after World War II. Diplomat Paul Child is stationed in the French capital where his wife, Julia, finds something challenging to fill her days.

That decision leads to not only a lifetime of tasty meals, but also a landmark cookbook - "Mastering The Art of French Cooking," the first such guide in English - and her popular "French Chef" series on American Public Television.

"I'm Julia Child. Bon Appetit!"
"She changed everything. Before her, it was frozen food and can openers and marshmallows."
"Don't knock marshmallows."

In 2002, Julie Powell, a New York office worker frustrated by her job, comes up with an idea for a blog:

"The 'Julie/Julia Project.' I cook my way through Julia Child's cookbook: 365 days, 524 recipes. I am risking my well-being for a deranged assignment. Is it crazy?"

Crazy, it may be; but it becomes a life-changing experience, paralleling how "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" became one for Julie's idol.

Meryl Streep plays the delightfully flamboyant Julia Child. Well-known for her mastery of accents, Streep says finding this distinctive voice was no problem.

"I'll bet everybody in this room could do their version of Julia Child," Streep says. "Everybody can sort of pull that 'bon appetit' out of their vault."

But Streep also found a personal connection with the character.

"I thought it was an opportunity not to impersonate Julia Child but to do a couple of things," she explains. "I'm doing an idealized version, but I was also doing an idealized version of my mother who had a similar 'joie de vivre' - an undeniable sense of how to enjoy her life. So this is my little homage to that spirit."

Amy Adams plays contemporary blogger, now author, Julie Powell and says, like the real Julie, she learned a lot about the relationship between good food and a good life.

"There was a kitchen on set in the studio and they would cook everything fresh," Adams explains. "There was no 'too-old' bruschetta because they were making it and bringing you fresh ones. As soon as it looked like they weren't fresh you got a new one, so we were really spoiled with some amazing food. For me, it's really taught me more about the meditative effects of cooking; not just how do you put a meal together, but really enjoying the process of cooking for friends and family."

Writer-director Nora Ephron adapted two memoirs for the screenplay - Powell's Julie & Julia and Julia Child's "My Life in France." She says the film tapped into her own two special passions: food and writing.

"One of the things that is so amazing about Julie's story is that she started in this tiny way with almost nobody noticing and changed her life," notes Ephron. "That's what both women did in completely different ways and completely contemporary ways for each of them in the period when they were living."

Julie & Julia also features two devoted, supporting husbands: Stanley Tucci as Paul Child and Chris Messina plays Eric Powell. The food on screen - and there is plenty of it - was prepared under the supervision of New York chef Colin Flynn. The musical score is by Parisian composer Alexandre Desplat.