Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Julie & Julia

Movie Monday (of last week) brought a screening of Julie & Julia, a film I've been swooning over for almost a year before seeing it. I mean, Meryl Streep, Stanley Tucci, and Amy Adams in a Nora Ephron film about Julia Child!? That has Lovely Day written all over it. Since finally seeing the film at a screening, Ms. Child has been looming in my head and in my conversations, all for the better. I loved this movie (thank goodness). You will too.

Alex and I agreed that the film could have held its own as simply Julia because the Julia Child portion of the film greatly outshone the Julie Powell portion. (Although there has already been a Julia, now hasn't there?) And I've said it before and I'll say it again-- Julie Powell is annoying. Amy Adams did her best to sweeten her up, but she was still annoying. Also, WHAT WAS WITH THE HAIR? Really bad. There are no excuses for that.

Meryl Streep, in contrast, nailed her character with that 'frank, jovial, and robust spirit.' I just loved her. There is something so rare about those characters who smile with every word they say, no matter the sentiment. Our reaction is much like that scene from Amelie when she turns to look at the movie theater audience during the best parts-- we smile too.

(Ironically, Amy Adams used this trait in the lovely Sunshine Cleaning, as did Maggie Gyllenhall in Trust the Man. Come to think of it, I wish that Amy had played Julie Powell more like her character in Sunshine Cleaning with that gorgeous can-do attitude. It would have translated nicely. Anyway...)

The Julia Child story delighted me in its accuracy. The love story between this 6'2" Amazon woman and this smallish mustached Renaissance man is unique in its respect and admiration. They enjoy life and food and wine together and verbally acknowledge how lucky they are to have found each other. The valentines scene is like no other in its very sincere and physically present love.

There is something to be said about sincerity. In a world of sarcasm and irony its nice to see two people get along and genuinely enjoy each other's company. This sentiment is extremely present in her book My Life in France and I was pleased to see the Tucci/Streep duo maintain such a felt connection.

Julia Child, June Carter, Willa Cather, Tilda Swinton, Katherine Hepburn-- these are women we should look to for examples of strength and grace. THIS, my friends, is where Julie Powell failed in terms of character.

Julia Child approached cooking with love and excitement. Julie Powell approached it with fear and dread. She negated Child's entire theory on French cooking and its importance. It isn't a race its an art; it's a lifestyle, not a deadline. (Oh, I could go on and on with my frustrations, I'll spare you.) At the end of the film we learn that Julia Child didn't like the Julie/Julia project, didn't have interest in meeting her or encouraging her quest. Can you blame her?

As I was making my toast and coffee this morning, and found my butter moldy and my coffee too weak, I knew that Julia Child would have laughed it off. Julie Powell would have probably cried on the kitchen floor. It's a difference in approach, a difference in clarity of choice.

Never ONCE in her memoir did Ms. Julia Child complain about her working conditions, her mood, her situation. There was no 'whoa is me', no deep emotional breakthrough. I appreciate this in a person and think we perhaps ought to go back there, to a time when emotional examination wasn't given quite the honor and patience that it is today. Laughter in place of empathy perhaps?

See this film. Then read My Life in France. Then go home and cook something with butter.


Erin said...

Great review, Sarah. I've heard similar sentiments elsewhere on the "Julie Powell" half of the movie. Still I CANNOT WAIT to see it. Did you read the Nora Ephron profile in the New Yorker? It's very good! I've realized that woman has had a profound influence in my life with the films she's created. Well, hope all is well with you. We miss you!

Gail said...

I'm excited to see the "Julia" movie. I hope it comes to Beatrice!