Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Julie & Julia

Julie & Julia. Sony Pictures. DVD 2009.

The Plot: Julia Child moves to France and falls in love with France and French cooking, and hopes to find a way to share that love. Present day Julie Powell cooks and blogs her way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1.

The Good: This summer, I reviewed the two books that are the basis of this book, Powell's Julie & Julia and Child's My Life in France.

Powell's book inspired the title, and as I said in my review of the book, "Powell at times imagines a scenario from Child's life. At the end of the book, she finds out that Child knows about her project and is less than impressed. Ultimately, Powell realizes that the "book" Julia Child is who matters to Powell, not the person."

Julie & Julia the movie is not solely Powell's book; it is also Child's book, which means that the movie Julia Child is indeed Julia Child, not Powell's Child. The movie establishes that this is about Julia Child, and the real Julia Child, by starting the movie with Child and her husband arriving in France and ending the movie with Child holding the first copy of her book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. So why, one wonders, entwine Powell's story with Child's?

In her book, Powell used Child (and I mean that respectfully) and Child's importance to the story was filtered through Powell. In the movie, this becomes how Powell is important to Child. Oh, the two never meet; and we see Powell hearing from someone that Child was less than impressed and not very understanding of Powell's blogging project, but we don't see movie Julia Child saying or doing anything of the sort. Except for the recreation of an episode of Child's cooking show, Julia Child is only shown during her time of becoming Julia Child. So how is Powell important to Julia Child? Because it is Julie Powell, the servantless cook, that Julia Child is writing for. Child's success is shown in two ways: the publication of the book, and her continuing impact on American society as represented by one woman.

It's nice to have a gap between reading books and watching films. The Julie Powell and "my" Julie Powell, the one I met in the book, seemed very different people. Film Julie Powell seemed less rough around the edges, a little too perfect and cute, who never really gained weight despite complaining about it. Book Julie Powell owned her messiness and maggots and dissatisfaction.

Meryl Streep is amazing as Julia Child. One thing I adore about Streep? She plays people younger than she is! Child went to France at 36; she was 49 when her book was published. Streep is older than Child was; yet Streep plays Child as if no one else could. She captures the joy, the enthusiasm, the love, the lust. Who else could be Child?

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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy


Anonymous said...

I loved the Julie Powell book, and adored the movie - but more for the Julia Child plot line (based on her memoir My Life in France I believe) than for the Powell line. Meryl Streep was brilliant as Child, and Stanley Tucci was adorable as her husband. And I agree that Amy Adams's Powell was kinder and gentler and less snarky than the book Powell, but I think it helped make the movie feel more like a dialogue (as you set it up in your post), since we'd lost the filtering aspect of Powell's book when the two stories were combined.

Tasha said...

I loved the book because of how human Julie was in it. I loved the movie too, but really not the Julie parts. I loved Streep. What an amazing performance! And I wished that it had just been Child's book and just Streep on the screen.

Charlotte said...

What about the spying part? I want to know more about Julia as a spy, just because it's so unlikely...I remember how stunned I was when I heard about it :)

Paige Y. said...

I haven't read Powell's book but I did look up and read her blog for the year she cooked from Mastering. I enjoyed the blog but I can also understand why Julia Child didn't like it -- there are a lot of curse words, most especially the f-bomb. If Child didn't care for that sort of language, then it would be natural for her not to like the blog. There are also a number of places where Child might think Powell was being disrespectful to the cookbook, however I understood Powell's frustrations dealing with some fairly complicated recipes after a long day's work.

That said, I loved the movie (I've seen it twice). Both Streep and Adams are amazing and delightful. So what if Adam's character is not as rough around the edges as Powell is in real life -- it's a movie and they have dramatized it to make it more enjoyable.

I received both volumes of Mastering for Christmas and I'm enjoying reading through them. I have tried a couple of recipes but would never dream of being as brave as Powell and thinking I could cook them all.

Melissa said...

After I took my husband to see this (my second time through), he said, "Well, that was 40% of a good movie." (I'd disagree, it's at least 50% of a good movie.) I liked the Julia parts best (and you're right: no one other than Meryl Streep could play her, and I confess I wanted to be married to Paul... ah, Stanley Tucci...). The one thing the movie did that neither of the books did, though, was make me want to actually pick up a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I have yet to do that, though.

Liz B said...

Kelly & Tasha, I sometimes think that, as much as I like Powell's book, that one of the best things about Powell's book was it gave us Meryl Streep as Julia Child. I wonder, without the "young Julie" angle, would Hollywood have greenlighted a Julie Child project? That said, I have Powell's new book and cannot wait to revisit her, warts and all.

Charlotte, I so want to read more about Julia Child now! Including the spy part.

Paige, I thought the book and the movie did a good look at the nature of fandom and how those we think we know, we don't, and in the end, does it matter? Does it matter what Child thought about Powell? And should we also realize that -- I may follow Maureen Johnson or Meg Cabot on blogs and tweets, but I don't know them. While movie-Julie is gosh darn cute, I think book-Julie is the person I'd be sharing a drink with.

Paige & Melissa, I'm the type of cook that Julia (and Julie, I guess) would be appalled by. I want the 3 ingredient/ 30 minute quick and easy recipe. Sadly, neither book nor movie inspired me to master French cooking. It did make me want to eat French cooking! Or to look for the simple version of the recipes.

Helen Neely said...

I love this book, but did not manage to go see the movie. I will have to see the DVD when I get the time.

Nice piece.