Tidbits – Movie Review
A few days ago I caught Nora Ephron’s new film, Julie and Julia. With Julia Child being such an icon in the culinary world, this film was definitely on my must-see list. It sounded like an interesting story about how two opposite lives can intersect as a result of technology. (It was also a great excuse for a date night with my husband, who’s also a foodie. And yes, this is probably the first “non-child-oriented” film we’ve gone out to the theatre to see in … well, let’s just say maybe since my 5 year old was born!)
If you haven’t heard of it, the story is about Julie Powell who, in 2002 challenges herself to cook through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year – 524 recipes in 365 days, and then blog about it. Sounds like quite the feat. So, my husband and I toddled off to the movie theatre in anticipation of a good time.
This film was fun, almost entirely due to Merryl Streep’s stunning portrayal of Julia Child. Effervescent and engaging, I couldn’t help but be drawn into her character. Best of all, the movie promotes the concept of good food. I found myself thinking that, maybe, I, too, should work my way through a few of my cookbooks that are currently collecting dust in my office. (Notice I don’t even keep them in the kitchen).
Ephron does a great job at depicting why Julia Child is so iconic. She really did transform how North Americans cooked. Child’s competition in the 1950s was made up of cookbooks like Joy of Cooking and Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook that described using such “delicacies” as Marshmallow Fluff and canned mushroom soup to create meals. Mortified by the widespread use of processed foods, Child wanted to prove to the “servant-less” that exquisite cuisine based on fresh, flavourful ingredients was possible. You can’t argue with that!
Despite the fact that an equal amount of time was given to both Julie and Julia’s stories, this film felt completely off-balance. I left the theatre feeling that I hadn’t really learned anything more than I already knew about these people. I didn’t think Amy Adams gave Julie Powell’s character the depth it deserved. My husband had to keep reminding himself that we weren’t there watching her play Gisèle in Disney’s Enchanted. Adams portrayed Julie as a nice, but whiney, person in the throes of a career crisis. But, Julie describes herself as selfish, self-centred and, well a bitch. There’s also a part at the end of the movie (that I won’t spoil for you) that makes me ask: who is the real Julia Child?
Unlike many of Ephron’s other films, like When Harry Met Sally, Julie and Julia is fraught with poor character and plot development. If Ephron is making the point that the modern woman suffers from a bad case of entitlement in comparison to the women of Child’s day, then she needed to delve more deeply into Julie Powell’s character to show us why she acts the way she does. While Child’s personality is deep, Powell’s (and her husband’s and friends’) are merely the kind of cardboard cut-outs one might find in a cheap dimestore romance.
Would I see it again? On DVD, probably. Because of Streep’s rendition of Julia Child, it is undeniably a very endearing film.