Kristin Hanggi on Nora Ephron

'Julie and Julia' speaks to women

One of the reasons I’m not afraid to make my very elaborate coffee order at Starbucks is because “When Harry Met Sally’s” Sally Albright told us it was appropriate to order things the way you want it – even if it meant “on-the-side,” or in my case, with extra soy. In the same way, I think Nora Ephron has impacted all of us with her portrayal of women – with our delicious eccentricities – whether it’s with our food, our love lives or our dreams. In “Julie and Julia,” what Ms. Ephron does so beautifully as a director is create two worlds that couldn’t be more different but that serve to illuminate the interconnectedness of women. She shows us a mid-century Paris: glorious in its bustling markets, period costumes, ornate architecture and optimistic pastels. Her long, moving camera shots allow Julia Child’s world to breathe with plenty of sky and space. In contrast, Julie Powell’s modern-day Queens is shown to be overcrowded and dark, from a tiny apartment, to claustrophobic subways, to insular cubicles. Ephron shoots scenes in cramped spaces, often shooting through doors, as her camera gets tight with young Julie and we feel what it’s like to be limited, without resources and struggling at the beginning of your career. Throughout the film, Ephron cleverly finds ways to tie these two different female experiences together, letting us know we’re not alone as we wrestle with uncertainty and overcome our fears.

My favorite moment is the last scene of the movie, where Julie Powell, after completing her blogging mission, goes to an exhibit of Julia Child’s kitchen. Julie, in gratitude to her idol, tells a picture of Julia, “I love you,” and then the camera pushes into the kitchen exhibit and the lighting changes. Without cutting away, Ephron takes us back in time, to Julia Child in her kitchen as her husband enters and hands her a piece of mail. This is her book. Her triumph. And again, here it is: the interconnectedness of all women. Women, who across generations, are looking for purpose, for meaning and for a knowing that they are capable of making their dreams come true. Thanks, Nora – I think so too.

Kristin Hanggi directed the current Broadway production of “Rock of Ages.”

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