I’ve been watching the previews for Julia and Julia, the new Nora Ephron movie, with mixed emotions. I thrill every time I watch Meryl Streep declare “I’m Julia Child” in that famous, high, lilting voice. But I find myself getting annoyed when I watch Amy Adams ask “Do You Think I”m Lost? Is this lost?” And, I care . . . why?
My ambivalence towards the film stems from the book it’s based on, Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen, Julia Powell’s memoir about the year she spent her way cooking through every recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking and blogging about it at the Julie/Julia project. I didn’t actually read Powell’s blog because I was living in a dorm room when she wrote it and, given that I did all of my cooking in a microwave or toaster oven, the last thing I wanted to read was a blog that taunted me with all the things I couldn’t cook.
My sister was a big fan of the Julia Project and lent me her copy of Julie and Julia a couple of years ago. And, honestly, I hated it. Now, no offense to Julie Powell – I just read some of her blog and she’s a freaking fantastic, funny writer. But I was frustrated that the memoir focused so much on her personal life and not on the food. I didn’t want to hear about her boring administrative job, or the various romantic lives of her single friends (especially not that) – I wanted to read about Mastering the Art of French Cooking, damn it! The book was way too much memoir, and not nearly enough food – a decision that probably lay with an editor and/or marketing department.
So when I heard that Sony Pictures was making a movie of Julie and Julia, I was . . . unenthusiastic, to say the least. But my interest was piqued when I found out that the movie actually drew from two memoirs – Powell’s book and Julia Child’s My Life in France, which covers Child’s culinary awakening and her time at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school.
Still, how exactly is this movie supposed to work? It’s not that one couldn’t make a good story arc for Julie Powell and Julia Child – but merging the two story lines seems so unnecessarily difficult and clunky. Julia Child became a legendary cookbook author who changed the way Americans cooked at home. Julie Powell wrote a book. Julia Child underwent an extensive culinary education before writing Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Julie Powell did what bloggers do, myself included – write about cooking from an amateur’s perspective. The only way I can see these story lines converging is with a whole lot of cheesiness.
Ariel Levy’s profile of Nora Ephron in The New Yorker, which discusses the movie at length, cemented my skepticism. While Levy doesn’t exactly review the film, she does say that Julia Child’s story is so fascinating and Meryl Streep gives such an excellent performance as Julia Child, that the Julie Powell sections pale in comparison.
The really annoying thing about Julie and Julia is that Julia Child needs a movie. Her story is a compelling classic – Julia Child moves to Paris with her husband, enrolls in a cooking school at the age of 36, falls in love with cooking, and writes a book that changes the face of American food culture. Just thinking about it gives me chills. And that story deserves its own movie – but I don’t think it will ever get made.
But maybe I’m just over-thinking this movie. Did others like Julia and Julia? Do you think Julia Child deserves her own film? Anyone else wondering how this movie will “work?” Are you afraid that it will become another You’ve Got Mail, with some quiches and souffles thrown in? Does anyone else find this New York Times profile about the movie’s food stylist an annoying piece of fluff journalism that epitomizes the decline of the American news media? Dish in the comments.