Posts Tagged julie powell

A Julie and Julia Convert


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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Julia and Julia – Exciting? Or Annoying?


Meryl Street as Julia Child in "Julie and Julia." I think Julia Child deserves her own movie, thank you very much.

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.

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