Julia Child's story of her start in the cooking profession is intertwined with blogger Julie Powell's 2002 challenge to cook all the recipes in Child's first book.Julia Child's story of her start in the cooking profession is intertwined with blogger Julie Powell's 2002 challenge to cook all the recipes in Child's first book.Julia Child's story of her start in the cooking profession is intertwined with blogger Julie Powell's 2002 challenge to cook all the recipes in Child's first book.
Young married Julie Powell is a miserable cubicle-dweller whose husband encourages her to write a blog about preparing every recipe in volume one of Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" in the space of a year. Great premise, right? Clever story involving a young woman finding fulfillment through Julia Child, the French Chef, the first Public Television superstar? Well, I read the book and I gotta say I didn't care too much for Julie Powell, who came across as a basically unpleasant human being I'd never invite to dinner. But the premise really got to me. "Mastering the Art..." is the cookbook I have always turned to when I want to prepare a truly special dinner. I've had the box set of volumes one and two since the 70s, and gotta tell you they're well-used. Volume one is falling apart, in fact. (Anybody know a good book binder in DC?) So what WOULD it be like to devote a year's spare time to that wonderful instruction manual for home chefs? I wanted to have the experience without doing the work, so of course I read the book. But golly, I didn't want to read about Julie's ovaries and her girlfriends' weirdnesses and her lust for some actor and on and on with the girl talk. What a totally tiresome book it was.
Anyway, I plowed through Julie and Julia thinking I'd eventually be charmed, but I wasn't. Too bad. And now comes the movie, and I'm thinking Nora Ephron will surely correct the book's biggest flaw, which was too much time (~90%) devoted to Julie's blog-slog and only a few fascinating pages devoted to Julia Child.
And I was right. The movie gives the stories I'd say about equal time, which is still too much Julie/Amy Adams, and not enough Julia/Meryl Streep, but it's SO much a better mix than the book. The life of Julia Child could make a good movie on its own without all the gimmickry. But this is a perfectly entertaining movie in spite of it.
Speaking of Meryl Streep, she is a marvel to behold in this movie. Her impersonation is dead on, even better than Dan Ackroyd's, which is featured prominently and hilariously in the film.
"Julie and Julia" argues that Julia Child changed the way America eats, and the more I learn about her the less I feel inclined to argue about that. The movie brings her fascinating story to life and if I had to put up with a few scenes of Julie Powell melting down, well ... so what? It's a great movie if you have been in love with Julia Child as I have for many years, and a perfectly good one if you haven't.
- Aug 11, 2009