A Julie and Julia Convert

by moderndomestic on August 12, 2009

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Stanley Tucci, as Paul Child, and Meryl Streep, as Julia Child, celebrate the good life in Paris.

Half the crowd at the opening weekend of Julie and Julia , the new Nora Ephron movie about the life of Julia Child and blogger Julie Powell, must have been food bloggers. I mean, the movie has Julia Child, a story about a food blogger making it big, and copious food porn, all covered in a feel-good Nora Ephron glow. Come to think of it, the amazing thing is that there are food bloggers who haven’t seen this movie.

I was among the food bloggers who saw Julie and Julia this past weekend, but I was not one of the bloggers with high expectations. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I was a Julie and Julia skeptic. I didn’t like Julie Powell’s memoir, I though the movie should only be about Julia Child, and I still have a bad taste in my mouth from Ephron’s sickly sweet You’ve Got Mail.

But, after seeing Julie and Julia Saturday night, I am coming out as a convert. Maybe it’s the insomnia talking, but I loved this movie. I loved it so much I would see it again. Right now.

Meryl Streep tops the list of reasons why I loved this movie. Streep doesn’t just play Julia Child – she is Julia Child. She captures Child’s lilting, singsong voice, and her awkwardly graceful carriage — her performance is dead on. But Streep also embodies those intangible qualities that are why America fell in love with Julia Child – her warmth, her practicality, and her generous spirit. Stanley Tucci is wonderful as Paul Child – calm, supportive, and just a little wry.

The Julia Child sections of the movie are flawless. Child’s narrative – falling in love with cooking in France, finding her path as a cookbook author, struggling to get her book published, finally succeeding after years of work – brought tears to my eyes. The only problem I had with the Child section is that Streep, who is 60, plays Child at age 36 (when she attended the Cordon Blue cooking school) – and I didn’t even bat an eyelash. I think this says something about our youth-obsessed culture, but I’m not quite sure what.

To my surprise, the Julie Powell storyline was much more engaging than I thought it would be. Amy Adams did an excellent job playing Powell as a sweet, soulful, and neurotic cubicle worker and aspiring writer. This storyline could have been played for pure cheese, but Ephron doesn’t entirely sugar coat Powell – the character walks the line between identifiable twenty-something angst, and annoying self-absorption.

Ephron does a good job of drawing parallels between the Julia Child and Julie Powell story lines, although the more I think about it the less I am convinced that these parallels actually exist. Julia Child’s influence on the way Americans cook and the extensive amount of research, testing, and editing that went into writing Mastering The Art of French Cooking, can’t really compare to Powell’s blog. Powell’s blog was amusing and sparked some copy-cat blogs, but didn’t exactly change the way American’s think about food. Still, while I was watching the movie I was utterly convinced of the parallels – a testament, I think, to Ephron’s directing.

I couldn’t help but think about how the blogging landscape has changed since Powell wrote her blog. It’s quite likely that, were Powell to start blogging today, she would never land a book deal or gain the kind of attention she did. Food blogging is a crowded media space these days, with more popping up by the minute. Still, it’s nice to dream, right? Even food bloggers need our fantasies.

Besides Streep’s and Adam’s strong performances, what I loved most about this movie is that it really celebrates food, cooking, and the role that loving food can play in a life well lived. Even if it means suffering through a burned Beef Bourguignon, or having to slice through a mound of onions to perfect your knife skills – food can be a creative outlet, a way to explore something new, and a way to share something special with the people you love. Even if it won’t land you a book deal.

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Holiday Film Guide | THE COVETED
December 8, 2009 at 1:44 pm

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Christine August 12, 2009 at 11:29 am

Jenna – nice review. I can’t wait to see it! Did you catch the recent piece by Michael Pollan in NYTimes Magazine on Julia Child? Extremely fascinating (but isn’t everything he writes!?) – check it out if you haven’t.

BTW, Love your blog and read it from time to time. I should have commented way back about the whoopie pies. I grew up eating them in Maine and so thought it quite funny that they recently became the dessert du jour. Anyway, keep it up!

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Joanne August 12, 2009 at 1:08 pm

Loved the movie, loved your review, loved seing the movie with you!

It’s rhyming day.

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Amelia August 13, 2009 at 1:42 pm

Oh fun! I’ll definitely have to see this movie as soon as I have time. Still playing catch-up after vacations and such. I’m glad you liked the movie!

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Joanne August 18, 2009 at 11:17 am

I was inspired by the movie to do every recipe in my filipino cookbook. I have found some serious issues with the recipes, but so far I’ve looooved two our of three recipes that I’ve done. I’ve done others, but I will do them again for the sake of masterin. Thanks Julie & Julia!

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kaydee September 5, 2009 at 9:40 pm

I also loved the movie! I didn’t mind that it wasn’t all about Julia Child because I didn’t get the vibe that it was supposed to be however that was one criticism I heard. But I’m a total sucker for movies about food 😀

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