Julie & Julia

The Foodie Movie

A movie all about cooking. I don’t know why I watched it except it had good people in it, so you think there must be a reason they’re in it.

What’s Good About It

The acting. Meryl Streep is a little over the top as Julia child, but the rest of the cast is really good. It would be hard for Meryl Streep at this point of her glorious career to find a way of doing something that doesn’t come over as mannered – but she *is* Meryl Streep so you never forget just who it is doing the acting on screen. Stanley Tucci turns in another remarkable performance and it’s nice to see Amy Adams do something a bit more light-hearted and not so scowling and distressed as she was in ‘Doubt’. Maybe Amy Adams is too cute for the role, but that’s like complaining that icing on a cake might be too sweet.

The writing is good and and brisk. Some of it has echoes of Ephron’s other work, such as ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ wherein it is assumed the world of women is totally inexplicable to the world of men and vice versa. It might be true, it might be even slightly or greatly exaggerated, but it is noticeable Ephron. Familiarity is not such a bad thing.

There are a lot of good shots of food being prepared and cooked, and the period scenes in Paris are quite nicely done.

What’s Bad About It

Call me a grumpy old man but I sort of wonder if there’s enough substance in the story of a girl who cooks and eats her way through a mighty tome of cooking, intercut with how the mighty tome was penned. I constantly felt hungry, but wondered if there was ever going to be more about the nature of food than we like eating delicious stuff.

The film actually goes nowhere near a consideration of what drives us to seek more interesting combinations for our culinary delight. It just prosaically examines aspects of Julia Child’s struggle to get training or Julie learning to poach an egg properly.

I mean, there’s got to be more to all of this than taste itself, right?

One more thing. There’s a scene featuring a McCarthy-ist inquisition that appears briefly. It’s nowhere near menacing enough. The whole film is so gentle you never feel anybody is in any kind of real jeopardy. I’m not sure if this works.

What’s Interesting About It

I’m still thinking. Wait a minute… nup… it’s gone. This one is way too light. But it’s pleasant.

Blogging, Writing, Ecriture

Wait, I thought of something. Under the guise of it being about cooking, the film actually might be a meditation on writing. The central undertaking portrayed in this film appears to b about cooking, but easily missed are the arduous task of writing the cookbook that Julia Child undertook with Simone Beck, and the sustained effort of blogging undertaken by Julie Powell.

As such, it might have a cinematic parallel to something like ‘Capote’ or ‘Barton Fink’ or ‘Throw Momma From The Train’. Perhaps it is the first time blogging featured as a plot device in a feature film – it’s hard to say.

Here’s the original Blog. A sample of Julie Powell’s writing goes (randomly selected off the page):

The less fun bit about being old crazy and worn out is the worn out bit.  I am one creaky, achey sunnofabitch these days.  Of course it didn’t help that after driving down to DC in our rental car, and getting a wee bit bent out of shape trying to negotiate its fucking frenchie streets, and having a very late dinner (the duck confit and mmmmmmm potatoes with bacon, in a French bistro that could have been Dallas.  In fact everything in DC seems like Dallas, or maybe the whole United States seems like Dallas after New York – all the huge cavernous restaurants with the kitschy themes, and the people in them smoking, and the silly kids lined up in front of silly nightclubs – one of the great things about living in New York is that even if you never go out clubbing once in your entire life, you can still feel superior snubbing every other place’s nightlife as bush-league), while we were walking back to the hotel, I managed to smash full on into a street light.  The reason I managed to do this was that I was looking back over my shoulder at something called a “Buddy-cam” in a shop window – it appeared to be video from a camera strapped to a dog, but I doubted its veracity.  This was lucky, because if I’d run into it full-on, my face would now be bisected by the jagged edge of the street sign affixed to the lamp pole.  As it is, only the back of my skull is bisected.  And I’ve got this enormous knot on my thigh, which hurts like a sonofabitch.  Of course this leaves out that one presumes if I was not walking while looking backward, I would not have run into the pole at all.  And isn’t this what husbands are for, to keep you from doing stupid shit like that?

Anyway, I spent the rest of the weekend pathetically achey and creaky and old and worn out and maybe just a little bit crazy.  We went to the Smithsonian for a performance of “Bon Appetit,” an operetta based on an episode of “The French Chef.”  The mezzo playing Julia was just fabulous, and game as all hell – she sang, and beat egg whites by hand, while being rolled across the stage in an office chair because she’d broken her ankle, and coughing between arias, because she had a terrible cold.  See, to me, that’s what it’s all about.  Brava, say I.  And Rayna, the lovely woman from the Smithsonian who curated the Julia Child exhibit there, had seats reserved in the front row for Eric and me, which was a little embarrassing, but pretty damn neat too.  And after there was coffee and chocolate cake, and I was recognized for the first time (I imagine because of the reserved seats.)  The woman also known in blog comments as Reba was incredibly gracious and sweet and what she said by way of her feelings about the blog meant a lot to me, so I have to apologize, Reba, because I was not particularly sparkling or wise or even cogent.  It was my first time, so I was a little flummoxed.  Plus, of course, the old crazy and worn out thing.

So a great time was had by all in DC – though we didn’t get to the International Spy Museum, which was sort of our whole reason for coming.  You wouldn’t believe the lines.  Lines, when you are old, seem just too much to deal with.

She sure has a lot of gusto for the writing bit. It’s admirable – and I sort of wish the film dwelt a little bit more on that part. There actually is a lot of thought about life experiences on her blog that’s really quite insightful and you can see why she would draw the kind of interest that led to book deals. It’s a shame not much of that made the movie.

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Filed under Cinema, Film, Movies

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