In a packed theater, we saw Julie & Julia yesterday afternoon. As probably most people in the US with access to popular media have heard, this is Nora Ephron’s movie based on a combination of Julie Powell’s book Julie & Julia (following her blog, The Julie/Julia Project) and Julia Child’s memoir (written with Alex Prud’homme), My Life in France. Oh, and it’s about cooking.
As at least one reader will know (PJM, you can run, but you can’t hide), I have a soft spot for Ms. Child. Pat and I learned a lot about cooking from watching her public TV show. I remember our first souffle, undertaken not long after watching Ms. Child on The French Chef showing that what I thought was a daunting disk was actually pretty easy. Those memories made me anticipate this movie, perhaps creating a predisposition to like it.
The hype is that the two women whose lives “are both at loose ends… until they discover that with the right combination of passion, fearlessness, and butter, anything is possible.” But that’s just the hype. The main story in Ms. Ephron’s screenplay is, of course, the compare-and-contrast between the two lives, the protracted story of Ms. Child’s publishing Mastering the Art of French Cooking and the meteoric acceleration of Ms. Powell’s blogging project into her book. I felt the joy of the women when, after setbacks, their publishing goals are realized. That’s a nice feature of the film, but Ms. Ephron invokes many others: The “hero-husbands” (to use Ms. Powell’s referent) of the two women; Paris and Queens; no-day-job and a horrific one; the McCarthy era and 9-11; Buick woodie and subway cars. Lots of attention to detail make these fun.
I had planned to read Ms. Powell’s Julie & Julia before seeing the film, but I didn’t. Deterred by the reviews of the book, I settled for having read most of the blog in batches here and there. Although I didn’t follow it when Ms. Powell was publishing it originally, what I read since was plenty entertaining. I shall read My Life in France, though.
Being an amateur foodie, I was interested in the foods shown in preparation and presentation in the film. They looked quite good. Wish I could have smelled them. At one point during the movie, Pat leaned over to me and noted that the sparkling wine was in the wrong kind of stemware (I’m picky about such). I was reminded of all the martini-gimlet-etc. drinking on the blog. There were some references to good wine in the film, but Ms. Nephron also often put drinks in the Childs’ hands. Is it just me or is it foolish to anesthetize ones taste buds with liquor before having good food and wine?
People will surely talk about what is, to my un-sophisticated eye, the fine acting in the film; of course, Meryl Streep takes her usually splendid turn, but Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina, Linda Emond, and many others had me following their characters closely, too. And, they’ll discuss the features of the screenplay, photography, music, and etc. I hope they’ll enjoy the food themes. I think nearly everyone who sees it will have a good time. To be sure, it will appeal to a specific overlap among demographic groups (what film doesn’t?), but those folks vote with their $$ and I suspect they’ll vote clearly.
It is a fun movie. We were in a house where people laughed a lot. I sure enjoyed it.
Although Ms. Ephron adopts Ms. Powell’s title for her project, the story will always be Julia and Julie to me. I’ll be posting my regular b’day salute to her in just a few days.