Saturday, August 08, 2009

Super Cinema Saturday ~Julie and Julia (Book Review, too)

The Movie Review:

I've been eagerly awaiting Julie and Julia. Not that I'm a huge follower of Julia. I remember her from my childhood...the quirky voice, the occasional glimpse of her on our small screen television. My mom didn't own "The Book" (the 1961 version of Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 1) or if she did, I never was allowed to touch it. Julie Powell's book Julie and Julia enticed me. I'm a blogger so Julie Powell's blogging adventure intrigued me. I was disappointed in the lack of Julia in Powell's memoir. And a little overwhelmed by some of the things that took up space that Julia could've filled.

The movie. Ah. On one hand I can say that I loved it. Feel good? Check. Two women, different generations, situations and struggles taking life by the throat and just doing it. Check. Definitely feel good. I loved the supportive and loving men in the lives of Julie and Julia. Meryl Streep, in an enchanting performance, oozes goodwill and charm, embracing life as a generous and lifesized Julia Child. Several scenes were laugh outloud funny, others poignant, and I would have been content with the story of Julia Child. Period. The film even included a Dan Akroyd as Julia Child laugh moment and remake scenes of The French Chef ala Meryl.

Julie Powell's life, on the other hand, lacked a bit. Amy Adams, as Julie Powell, weeping on the floor was very amusing. But there was a disconnect somewhere... in the script, the interpretation, or the tainting in my own mind by having read her memoir. Julie Powell, on the big screen, came across as whiny, weak and fragile. The book Julie Powell (I've not read the blog, so I can't compare there) is a don't-like-it-then-you-know-where-to-shove-it woman with frequent outbursts that seemed to be rages rather than insecurities. The movie Julie Powell discusses her "_ itchiness" with a friend. But she doesn't pull off _itch, this character is not a mean girl. And that's probably really the issue. Powell is honest in her memoir, sometimes horrifyingly honest, but it causes a grudging admiration. And she's funny, witty, sarcastic and descriptive which makes her readable and likable on another level. The film didn't pull that out of the character and so we are left with kind of a "who cares" or "that's nice" secondary scenario in which a girl becomes a woman while following Julia's recipe for a full life. Kind of.

On the family friendliness of this film -- it earned it's PG13 with a few mild makeout scenes, a language list that included at least one each of all the major curse words without overly drowning the audience in expletives. One scene included a descriptive term referencing a male body part or rooster, if you will.

I can recommend it as an entertaining film full of delightful scenery and outdoor markets, laden tables, well-acted characters, charming interactions, and overall deliciousness with a tiny bit of aftertaste of something not so fabulous. Plan to leave the theater with the desire for food or an adventure or a great combination of the two.

The Book Review:

In anticipation of the movie by the same name and by a serendipitous sale while on a trip to a local bookseller I ended up with a copy of this entertaining memoir. I had not heard of The Project before seeing the film trailer. And once I saw the film trailer I was completely in love with the idea and the intersecting stories of the two women on separate but intertwined journeys. Buying the book seemed like the absolute best idea. Before I continue, though, I need to toss out some caution flags. Caution number one...based on the subject matter and charming cover you'd never guess this book would be full sexuality. It is. I'm guessing if you tossed a few seasons of Sex in the City into a crock-pot, added several chapters of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and folded in a few trade chick-lits, a tablespoon of assorted spices, and a few cups of wine you'd end up with a dish of Julie and Julia en croute.

In example, regarding Caution One, two friends actively engaged or toying with adultery, a friend with erotic dreams and lack of filter, a heroine who seems at the edge of her very sanity several times, raw, naked, food, mastering and manipulating and enjoying said food, a move, a despised job not to mention a syndrome and a biological clock clanging on the cusp of a thirtieth birthday, well, all lend themselves to frequent F-bombs and much sexual conversation and shared thoughts.

Caution Number Two. I expected more Julia. Julia isn't absent but a bit anemic and in a ratio of about 10% Julia, 90% Julie. Julie's life is definitely one that kept me turning pages, sometimes with apprehension, but turning nonetheless. But if you are seeking half and half or heavy on the Julia you might be disappointed.

Julie is clever and writes some terrific sentences. Some of her descriptions are deliciously hysterical. One little tidbit about her poor, sweet husband as a butter mule brought tears to my eyes. Also, Julie gets a little or a lot political and is definitely not a fan of religion and/or God depending on the rants I encountered. Anger, though amusing much of the time, still comes across as anger and added a bitter aftertaste. I loved Eric and the fact that though there were times I wondered if their marriage would survive the slinging, the cursing, the thoughts, in the light of day Julie always managed to find the good and the right in her marriage and attempted to speak positively about her husband, painting him as an unconventional hero.

Sarcasm lovers. Those who like underdog stories wherein beaten down and depressed person picks self up by boot straps and through some quirky, self-imposed lifestyle choice ends up changing need to look further into Julie and Julia. The unfolding story is a painful process to watch. But there is something grandly delicious about the final multicourse meal on the cosmic table of a hard won success. Though a thick fuzzy blanket of dust lies beneath the dining room table covering and spiderwebs bind the candle sconces to the wall and each other, though the sink gurgles in protest and the pans cover all available space in the kitchen, the meal ends up being very much like life. Delicious and decadent mixed with sparse and stringy, washed down with joy and tears, and shared with people just as stinking messy.