Saturday, August 8, 2009
I just returned from seeing Julie and Julia with my roommate, Other Sarah, and I have to say that my heart has been thoroughly warmed. Slow-roasted for hours in a savory wine sauce warmed. Wrapped in a pastry crust and baked to golden brown warmed. Other Sarah and I have both declared that we can think of nothing better than to find doting husbands and then spend the rest of our lives cooking French food for them and our friends.
I could identify with Meryl Streep's Julie as she longed for "Something to do-oo" and chatted non-stop with her sister. I also identified with Amy Adams' Julie as her cubicle labor prompted her to cry "I can write a blog! I have thoughts!" Julie is also bit self-absorbed, which alarmed me. Am I like that? Yikes. At least I know my reader's lives will go on if I stop writing.
I also enjoyed analyzing the technological differences between the protagonist. Back in "the last century," Julia relies on letters to keep tabs on distant friends. On the other hand, Julie can instantly encounter her idol through the ubiquitous visual culture of the 2000's. The French Chef reruns, parody skits, and a Smithsonian exhibit all allow the protagonist to commune with Julia's creative genius. Likewise, Julie's project does not have meaning until it is validated on computer and then movie screens. It's a far cry from Julia's original cookbook draft as stacks of onion skin paper.
Although it is female-focused, the male characters in Julie and Julia are what hold it together. Both husbands are patient, encouraging, and affectionate; although sometimes exasperated by their wives' cooking hobbies. It is rare to see men get so much dignity in a chick flick - there is no reason to gripe about these guys over cosmos. Their relationships with their wives make the film realistic but deeply romantic. No one chases anyone through an airport or builds an elaborate closet or breaks up a wedding. Instead, two couples love each other, work through problems, and generally explore what this film review calls the "happily ever after" part.
A good biopic sends you running back to primary documents, and this film did that. I'm sorry to say my own memories of the real Julia Child are nothing special. When I was a child I only saw her master chef series, where guests did most of the talking. To me, Julia was some foreboding elite chef whose food was boring and complicated. I much preferred the shenanigans of Yan Can Cook or The Frugal Gourmet. Fortunately, PBS has corrected my misconceptions through the Julia Child videos posted on their website. Go check them out for yourself - the Cheese Souffle one is my favorite.