trailer-julie-julia

About a year ago, I was dining out by myself while L. was attending a late night class. I generally detest eating alone, so I stopped at the Borders in the same complex as the place I was eating. From their clearance shelves, I selected Julie & Julia by Julie Powell.

The novel was so much better than I expected a $4.99 reminded to the clearance shelves piece of writing to be. What caught me up in Julie Powell’s story is that whole feeling of longing for and searching for something. Her story is full of wanting so badly to take control of something and succeed with it when everything eles in your life feels like a spiraling out of control pile of suck. I got so caught up in that book and the narrative of Julie’s life. With her words, she brings you there into the kitchen with her. You get caught up with her nervousness about having to chop up a live lobster, you feel her frustration over aspics that won’t set up and most of all, you revel in her successes. I remember loving Julie’s story so much, I skipped over the parts of Julia Child’s story.

I saw the movie Julie & Julia today. I was completely determined to catch it on opening day. I loved the book and I love Amy Adams and Meryl Streep – could it get any better? However, like almost anyone who loves a book that gets turned into a movie, I left disappointed. That disappointment has stuck with me all day, like the proverbial something stuck between my teeth. I’m trying to put my finger on what bothered me about the movie and no matter what I can’t stick to just one thing that bothered me.

The biggest thing for me was how less interesting and less compelling Julie’s storyline was made to be in this movie. In the movie, it’s almost billed as her starting the blog out of spite. The movie never quite catches up with the books focus on Julie’s motivation. There are points when Amy Adams articulates it, but you rarely get to see it in action. Perhaps the symbolism for it all is the end dish Julie creates, but the momentum never builds behind that moment. I wasn’t rooting for Julie to succeed. I didn’t feel pulled into her story. You don’t get to experience change in the character of Julie within the movie. You feel let down at the end of the story.

Further to that point – they seriously made the movie Julie on the borderline of crazy. While I can appreciate the idea of having someone idealized in your head, movie Julie’s exclamations of how perfect Julia Childs was and how she loved her and so on? A little creepy. I kind of wanted to get Julia Childs a restraining order there towards the end of the movie.

That said, I would like to rave about Meryl Streep’s performance as Julia Childs. Not only did she get the look and the accent down perfectly, she brought such humor and tenderness to the role. You couldn’t help but love Julia as played by Meryl Streep. You rooted for her and wanted her to succeed. You felt let down if she didn’t. There are moments when little gestures and turns of the face convey sadness. But where she really succeeds in playing Julia Childs is when Streep makes her outrageous and hilarious. She really seems to embody the almost wacky, yet complete authenticness that Childs brought to life and the kitchen. Streep makes you want to be Julia Childs best friend. Honestly, I spent the entire movie wishing it was just the story of Julia Childs’ life because it was such a compelling narrative. It seems like so much of what I loved about Julie Powell in the book, Julia Childs became in this movie.

On a final note – for a film largely focused on cooking, very little of it actually got done on screen. I’m not saying I wanted to sit around and watch Amy Adams make mirepoux for two hours, but I missed the way cooking and food is such a huge focus in the novel. Butter is such a huge component in the book, with Julie buying tons and tons of it and her clothes no longer fitting because she’d consumed so much of it. That’s mostly missing from the movie. Some of the moments of genuine triumph come from Julie succeeding at cooking difficult and crazy things. I had said to a friend that I hoped the movie would showcase some of the “nasty” things Julie had had to do, such as using a saw to cut open bones and get out the marrow. Overall, that whole aspect of the film was sanitized. Instead everything gets boiled down (no pun intended) to a sentimental story about relationships.

Perhaps I will go see the movie again, to appreciate Meryl Streep’s performance, but more importantly I am going to give the book a rereading.

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