You've probably heard that Nora Ephron's new movie Julie & Julia comes out this Friday. It's the story of two women: the famed chef Julia Child, who learns to cook at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris in her mid-thirties & works for years on her tome Mastering the Art of French Cooking, & Julie Powell, who cooks all of Child's recipes in a year. The plot is based on their books: Child's My Life in France & Powell's blog-turned-book Julie & Julia. While these are really two separate stories (the two women never met), Ephron has juxtaposed them well, switching back and forth between the two women's lives to show their similarities.
Meryl Streep is brilliant as Julia Child, without mocking satire. My favorite scene is when Child has her first meal in Paris; she is emotionally overwhelmed with the first bite of sole meunière, a dish that seems so delicious that Child cannot express her satisfaction in words. It's a moving scene that nearly brought me to tears. Throughout the film, Streep perfectly portrays Child's passion for food, for love, and for life. It's truly inspiring.
Valentine's Day card from the real Julia & Paul Child.
The movie does a good job highlighting their passionate marriage.
The movie does a good job highlighting their passionate marriage.
As a foodie, I also loved the food in the film; it really is another of the stars. And I loved watching the actors eat. Chris Messina, who plays Powell's husband, eats with such gusto that I've actually made one of the dishes he so eagerly consumes (the tomato bruschetta). Don't go to the theater hungry, because this movie will be 2 hours of torture. Do go home and make one of Child's recipe, particularly the boeuf bourguignon (you won't regret it).
Powell's husband Eric loves her cooking & is patiently supportive, at least in the film. (Anyone know if they are still married? It's hard to tell.)
On the other hand, I was disappointed in how Julie Powell is portrayed. I couldn't put my finger on it at first. So, when I met Powell in LA last month, I asked her how she felt about the changes they made to her story & character. She reminded me that Julie & Julia is a Nora Ephron romantic comedy and that her character is a "sweetened version" of herself. "It's rated PG-13," she said. "You get one fuck." And that was it! Powell is pretty edgy & dysfunctional in her book (which is one of the reasons I liked it); she's much tamer on screen. She didn’t like that her character says the phrase “the F-word” because in real life she would never have said that; she would just say "fuck" (and she does so in the book often). She also didn’t like that her character shopped at Dean & DeLuca, another thing she would never do. (She calls the store “Grocery of the Antichrist” on her original blog.) Otherwise, she seemed very happy with the movie. (Read Powell's recent article about her reactions to the film.)
One thing that bothered me about the changes to Powell's story is her reason for blogging. As I recall from reading the book, she is frustrated with her job (and life in general) and gets away to visit her parents in Texas. While there, she starts thumbing through her mother's old copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and realizes it's just the thing her soul needs. Before she starts cooking, her husband suggests she blog about it.
In the film, however, she decides to start a blog because her pretentious friend has one that is being made into a Showtime series. "I could write a blog. I have thoughts," Powell whines to her husband, who then suggests she write about cooking. "I'm not a real cook, not like Julia Child," she replies. It's then she comes up with the idea for cooking all of Child's 524 recipes in 365 days. I think that change makes Powell seem less than genuine and quite pretentious herself, like she is doing the project merely to get famous (although, if she was doing it for that reason then kudos to her for succeeding!). In the book, she seems to be doing it for more spiritual reasons (as she is even surprised that anyone is reading her blog in the first place).
There has been a lot of recent press about food bloggers hating Powell. I, for one, do NOT hate her. I loved her book (it inspired me to start cooking more & blogging about it), and I was absolutely thrilled to meet her (I really liked her). I honestly think that most of the hate comes from jealousy; she is, after all, the first to have her blog made into a book & a movie. I mean, most of us would love to have our blogs turned into books that are then made into movies starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. Who wouldn't? There is really no reason to hate Powell for what she did; her project was ambitious & creative, and her writing is witty & entertaining. I think some people are just upset that they didn't think of mastering the art of French cooking first.
Some of the negative reactions to Powell stems from a comment she made in May when she said: "I don’t consider myself a food blogger. I feel deeply ambivalent about the whole thing. Food bloggers can be clannish, slightly evil people sometimes, which is OK I guess. I can be clannish and slightly evil too."
A couple of the food bloggers at the LA event were highly offended by that comment and even asked her about it. Powell responded by saying that she doesn't consider herself a food blogger because she doesn't blog for a living. She had that one blog (started in 2002), which is not really about the food (she doesn't post recipes or photos) but is more about her life, her job, her relationship, and trying to find her passion. She was quick to compliment those who have made a career out of food blogging. As a food blogger myself, I am not at all offended by her comment. In fact, I tend to agree with her. EVERYONE can be clannish & slightly evil sometimes...bloggers of any kind are not excluded. Anyone who says they aren't and never have been are simply lying. And I respect and like her more for admitting she can be, too.
Offense was taken to the fact that Powell doesn't define herself as a blogger. Who cares how she defines herself! If you've read her book, the entire book, you'd know that she wanted to be an author even before she started blogging. And, I'll tell you, if I ever have a book published and it becomes my career, I'll then call myself an author and no longer a blogger.
One comment made about the difference between a "blogger" and an "author" is that bloggers aren't taken seriously as writers. For the most part, I think that's true...some people don't consider bloggers to be serious writers, even though many bloggers are fabulous writers. But blogging alone does not make one a writer. For example, I wouldn't consider every teenager who has a blog to be a writer, nor would I necessarily consider someone who merely has a blog to be a "blogger." In fact, I don't really consider myself to be a writer, even though I recently wrote a magazine article. I am, for now, a blogger...because it's what I do most regularly. But, I'm also a teacher, and I consider myself to be a cook (not a chef, of course). I don't really care how Julie Powell (or anyone else for that matter) defines herself.
Nevertheless, whether or not you like Julie Powell, this movie is entertaining and worth seeing...even if you're not a foodie or a Julia Child fan (though, her life is really interesting).
Of course, since I'm an English teacher, I have to recommend that you read the books before (or after) seeing the film, since Ephron has changed some things and left out other details. Also, check out Powell's next novel, Cleaving, which comes out in December.