Tuesday, August 11

julie & julia

{via thestranger.com ~ linked before reading their similar review}

sunday afternoon, while the sun blazed above, I was enfolded in a cool, dark theater. jodi, from local food blog tasty touring, organized a group for screening the show at a remarkably appropriate venue. after a day of mulling, here's what I thought of the film. disclaimer: I have no particular attachment to the julie/julia project, having read neither blog nor book. I am, however, a big fan of julia child's.

firstly and most importantly, meryl streep is a badass. she rocked julia child, and it was an inspired casting choice. disbelief was thoroughly suspended by her funny, loving portrayal. nora ephron created a delightful adaptation of the two stories, and from my limited knowledge of powell's writing, a faithful one. stanley tucci was terrific, as was the rest of the supporting cast (especially surprising and sweet — jane lynch as julia's sister dorothy). sets and costuming were gorgeous. it was a fun, well crafted film.

that said, the concept wasn't quite what I expected, entering uninformed. formulaic you-go-girl movies are not generally my thing, but I try to check cynicism at the door. in this case, I can't help but feel the original intent was to make a movie about julia, but studio money thought there would be no audience. how, then, to make it more salable? ...ooh!oooh! I know!! ...enlist the burgeoning ranks of mommybloggers, with disposable income and a need for a self-esteem boost! hooray for american ladies' buying power!

julie & julia's stories twist together around the blogging project in a way that allows both stories to be told in one breath. but the blog-as-underlying-catalyst gives longer legs to powell's segments, and though amy adams is adorable (as always, even with a frumpy haircut), I found difficulty connecting to powell's navel gazing against the counterpoint of julia child's steadfast, feisty action. edit-phase focus grouping felt probable, as every scene that inched near my threshold for whiny blogger ennui — just about the moment a pottybreak was necessary — the plot flipped back to julia, and escape was forestalled.

::plot note:: near the end of her life, julia child was told of the j/j project, and was not particularly impressed. at the inevitable point where the two film plot-lines intersect, when child's opinion of the j/j project is shared with powell and yet another meltdown ensues, sympathy for powell's character was a tough sell. you know...in my humble opinion. maybe I'm one of those self-loathing bloggers. or maybe I sort of agree with julia, that the project — while ambitious — was something of a gimmick. powell's success is admirable, since often it's too much to ask me even to make a fresh pot of coffee from day to day. it just seemed ::searching for the word:: irreverent, shoe-horning 8 years of dogged development effort into the artificial deadline of one year of thirty-year-old life. flippant, perhaps? surely julia thought it cheeky, in the least. I dunno...I'm just saying. and likely this would all have felt different in context of an attachment to julie powell's story. my bad for seeing it with expectations of where focus would be placed.

my friends all loved it, squeegeeing their tears as the lights came up. the ending was uplifting: a tribute to the domestic goddess, by julie, very tastefully done. recommendation: see it, but perhaps read up on the j/j project before going, and decide whether her voice is a relatable one.

ohyeah...one last thought and insignificant spoiler: a favorite moment involved a massive fail on the part of miss powell's character. in working through julia's aspic chapter, julie procures a veal leg and, after hours of cooking (plus clarifying and chilling), unmolds her first true project flop. the friend sitting to my right leaned in, asking "what the hell is aspic?"
thought turned to grammy's wacky recipes, and the year the family was less than pleasantly surprised to discover the red jell-o on the holiday buffet was actually tomato-raspberry aspic. you heard it right. and it was just as horrifying as it sounds. that recipe hasn't been aired out again since (that we're aware of), but it lives on in family mythology. recently, after a retelling of this family lore, kid sis, too young to have participated at the time, finally asked the question we'd all danced around for two decades: "why the hell would anyone eat something called 'ass - pick'???"
...back in the theater, where none of this could be said freely with the film rolling, it could only be answered with an eye roll and a shrug. julie was better off rinsing it down the drain, anyway.


double tonic said...

a beautiful and spot-on review.

even in the book, julie & julia, which i read end to end, i thought the julie character was whiny. the movie pretended to give her a pre-project love for cooking, but i didn't buy it -- not in the book, not in the movie.

it is all very gimmicky.

at the same time, the movie had such sweet, inspiring moments (yes, almost entirely within the julia storyline) that i couldn't help but tear up ...

and, bottom line? my newfound love for julia child, my desire to want to cook my way through at least *some* of her recipes, might not exist without the whiny and possibly unworthy julie.

double tonic said...

and i love, love, love the streep casting choice.

she is brilliant. there is nothing i'd change about the performance; it was incredibly believable.

but it makes me a bit sad to think a lot of the 20- and 30-somethings out there will spend their lives thinking child = streep, or vice versa.

huebscher said...

au contraire m'amie, amazon lists mtaofc as the #1 seller, and my life in france is going into reprint. dvd sales/rentals can't be far behind!