Sep 20 2009
Today I finally made time to go see Julie and Julia before it completely left the theater. For those of you who missed the trailer, the movie follows the parallel stories of Julia Child and Julie Powell, an aspiring writer. Powell is a passionate foodie who, searching for some sort of “meaningful accomplishment” in her life on the verge of turning 30, decides to cook through Child’s cookbook in a year and blog about the experience.
This movie caught my attention for a number of reasons. First, my mother and brother were avid watchers of Julia Child as I was growing up.
Now, I’ll be the first one to confess that I’m pretty much culinarily challenged. My friends have a longstanding joke that my survival strategy involves always falling in love with men who enjoy cooking. Amongst my many ignoble disasters in the kitchen, I have managed the feat of setting fire to my kitchen cabinets attempting nothing more ambitious than boiling a pot of water for Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.
I’ve never had much of an interest in cooking, but I have a deep appreciation of good food. And, growing up, Julia Child on the TV meant two things: 1) reasonably good entertainment and 2) interesting things happening in the family kitchen that beat my mom’s traditional Friday night zucchini quiche hands-down.
My childhood is laced with memories of Julia Child killing Bertha the Lobster, a provincial French table covered in 50 lbs. of monkfish, and random intervals of self-multilation and bloodshed coverage courtesy of PBS. Better still, my younger brother Chris would get inspired by the showz and interesting things would happen in the kitchen courtesy of my family’s a much loved and bespattered copy of Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
With Julia Child a fixture of my childhood, I really enjoyed seeing Meryl Streep’s portrayal of her life. What resonated with me even more, however, was Julie Powell’s half of the film.
Powell is just turning 30 at the beginning of the story and questioning what she has to show for her life. I just recently turned forty and have been doing my own share of soul-searching about my life looking radically different than I expected it to by this point.
Powell is a frustrated aspiring writer who’s editor husband convinces her to start a blog. I think the story does a humorously good job of capturing the narcissim and self-absorption involved with writing a personal blog on a regular basis. Let’s face it. There has to be a certain level of arrogance to put the details of one’s day-to-day existence out there in the public ether in the belief that anyone else out there is going to have any interest whatsoever in reading it. And in prioritizing getting another post out there over spending quality time with one’s significant other.
Perhaps my favorite part of the film is when Powell has had two back-to-back major culinary disasters. (Aspics, followed closely by stuffed chicken.) She is lying prostrate on the floor of her kitchen amidst the remains of Disaster #2, howling in despair, when a writer for the Christian Science Monitor calls asking for an interview. Powell immediately pops up and answers the phone sounding perky as a cheerleader and totally in command of the situation. Oh yeah. Been there. More than once.
I also loved the relationship between Powell, her mother, and the blog. While my own mother never voiced an opinion telling me to shut the thing down, like Powell’s, she tends to follow it, and mommy- radar kicks off when something breaks the normal pattern and concerned phone calls and emails follow.
Powell’s storyline resonated with me enough, that I just downloaded a copy of her book from which the movie was drawn: Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously.
Anyway, while I doubt it will be winning any Oscars, it’s definitely a movie I’d recommend to the Julia Child fans out there and also to female bloggers. For my part, I am inspired to cook up some lovely, local-area corn for dinner (boiling is within my skill-set these days) and am busy reminiscing over Charlie’s lovely beed bourginon.