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