Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Storm's here! And Julie vs Julia...


The temp dropped dozens of degrees in literally less than an hour. All day it's been gloomy and windy, with hard bits of snow crashing against my piano students' cheeks. (The little dears.) A fire in the fireplace tonight when Husband gets home, with a hot spicy bowl of beans and rice alongside to warm up his innards.

We finally watched Julie and Julia last night... and I was so disappointed. It's all about a girl who vows to cook her way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking -- in a year. And blog about it.

The movie is actually a combination of Julie Powell's blog (or book Julie and Julia) and Julia Child's memoir, My Life In France. And where there's Child, it's interesting -- Julia's husband Paul had his reputation savaged by Senator McCarthy's hearings, but there is much about his career and work, as well as the years of effort Julia put into teaching and learning about cooking, as well as a cookbook co-written with two Frenchwomen -- one whose convenient headaches and stomaches made sure she didn't do much of the work.

But when the movie turns to Julie (the blogger), when it's not focusing on her cooking skills, it makes her into a whiny, demanding brat. She actually seems proud of the "meltdowns" she has when things don't go right. And when the real Julia Child doesn't approve of her blog, and refuses to have anything to do with her (more on this in a bit), she has yet another temper tantrum. One of the silliest bits of the movie ensues here, when her husband says soothingly, 'Ah, don't worry about it -- you know the 'real' Julia.' (I.e., the one she's been talking to in her head.)

After the final stomach-gagging scene, wherein Our Heroine gushes, 'Oh Julia, you pulled me out of the saved me!' I thought hopefully that perhaps the real blogger wasn't like this. She would never be such a narcissistic twit.

Au contraire. The real Julie Powell did indeed do a blog on cooking Julia Child's dishes. She also prided herself on preening, posturing and her glorious potty mouth. Powell's sequel, Cleaving, which just came out this year, is a crowing, back-patting account of an affair she had (no excuses -- hey, a good time is worth it!), while learning how to butcher meat. (I am not making this up. I wish I were.)
    Oh by the way, she's still married. The poor guy.

Here's what Julia Child's editor said:

   "Flinging around four-letter words when cooking isn’t attractive, to me or Julia. She didn’t want to endorse it. What came through on the blog was somebody who was doing it almost for the sake of a stunt. She would never really describe the end results, how delicious it was, and what she learned. Julia didn’t like what she called ‘the flimsies.’ She didn’t suffer fools, if you know what I mean."

She's right.

I have no idea -- except for the Julia part, and Meryl Streep's fine acting -- why this movie became so popular. It's gotta be the food, which admittedly sounds glorious -- even the boned duck.

Do yourself a favor. Skip the movie. Skip the books. (Julie Powell's, that is.) Find a copy of My Life in France -- it's fascinating, especially for cooks and beginning authors, but makes the post-WWII period much more understandable.
   And take a minute to watch Julia Child in action on one of her many cooking tv show reruns, or find a copy of one of her cookbooks. She would be pleased -- and so will you.


christy said...

OK I watched it yesterday too and was so disappointed. I wish they would have gone into the whys of Julia Child saying those things about Julie. I really thought they would meet up. Do you know any of the details?

Anonymous said...

Funny, I just watched the movie tonight. And I enjoyed it. Julia Child was a much richer character, and Julie could have been totally left out of the movie. But anyone who grew up with Julia Child coming into their living rooms through their TV would enjoy just seeing her come to life again.
I did.

Cindy Brick said...

Funny -- I wasn't much into Julia's cooking style when younger. (I thought her food too fancy, and herself a bit frumpy.) But time and experience have given me a lot more admiration for the difficult dishes she makes look much easier. I also saw one of her later shows, with Martha Stewart decorating cakes. Julia even managed to intimidate Martha!
Christy, as far as specifics -- I think the editor's quote I used in the post hit at the heart of the matter. Julia had worked hard for many years to get where she was...Julie cooked recipes for a year to get where she was. WAY different story. According to the editor, Julia was also put off by Julie's crassness and tendency to swear a lot for no apparent reason. Click on the link on Julia Child's name, and it will take you to the Wikipedia entry for her. It will explain more.
Thanks so much for reading, both of you.

Cindy Brick said...

Christy, I did find another interview with Judith Jones, Julia Child's editor -- and the person I quoted in the post. She elaborated some, saying that mostly Julia didn't think Julie took her cooking seriously enough.
The interview is here:

Amy Adams, the actress that played Julie? She grew up in Castle Rock, the used-to-be-little Colorado town I live in! I remember seeing Amy in a production of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" at the Country Dinner Playhouse in Denver (now closed). Even then, she stood out from the crowd.

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