Julie and Julia review

October 20, 2009 § Leave a comment

I finally made it to our local cinema to see  “Julie & Julia” along with my son George, aged 13.  This was the first day of his half-term holidays and I am pleased that he chose to indulge me and see a film about cookery rather the latest Transformers movie or whatever.

This turned out to be a private screening just for us as we were the only people in the cinema at this Monday afternoon matinée.  Well, it has been out for a while and I imagine most good cooks would be busy preparing the evening meal..

We both had a really enjoyable afternoon – George, who is interested in cooking and even more so in eating, pronounced it “good” – high praise from him!  In my case, this was preaching to the converted – after all I am trying to become a blogger myself, and the book which is central to the film plotline “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” has long been a favourite on my kitchen shelf.

Until recently, the three authors of this book, listed in alphabetical order as Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholle and Julia Child, had no more significance to me than as practically anonymous writers of a technical manual, albeit a useful and readable one.  I began to have an inkling that Julia Child must have a reputation as a celebrity cook in her native United States when chatting to my good friend Matthew who now lives in San Francisco.  He dropped her name into conversation as being a well-known cook and given that his signature dish is baked beans with cheese, I concluded that she really must be a household name over there.

I imagine that many British people watching this film must have been rather bemused by the larger than life figure who is Julia Child.  By all accounts, Meryl Streep’s portrayal of her is uncannily accurate but this aspect of the film is lost on us Brits.  It doesn’t matter as the film stills works on many levels.

Following the life-story of Julia and her husband Paul through Paris in the 1950s and discovering the genesis of the book was like a marvellous fairy story.  I was left with a deep admiration for her as a person, for her generosity of spirit and determination.  The cookery book has now taken on an extra dimension for me and I can now sense the character of the women who wrote it beneath the specifics of the recipes.

I very much liked the way the stories of Julia Child and blogger Julie Powell were intertwined.  I’ve always liked novels constructed in this way – The French Lieutenant’s Woman for instance (and by coincidence Meryl Streep took the leading role in the film adaptation of the novel).  For me, the story of the very much lesser character Julie merely served to show Julia Child’s achievements over a lifetime in sharp relief.

I disliked the Julie Powell character right from the start.  Whether this is a fair reflection on Julie or whether it results from actress Amy Adams’ portrayal of her I can’t say.  I began to have misgivings about her when early on in the film it is revealed that at the age of 30 she had never eaten let alone cooked an egg before.  Hmmm maybe this woman is a fraud or a faddy eater or maybe even both…and when the potentially agonising moment comes as Julie learns Julia’s reaction to her blog and tearfully tells her husband “She hates me!” I found myself cheering inwardly.  I’m not entirely sure this is the reaction director Nora Ephron intended.

A word on the two supporting actors, the husbands of each of the two women.  Stanley Tucci’s portrayal of patient, charming and debonair Paul Child was delightful whereas Eric Powell played by Chris Messina came across as a graceless slob.

I did feel the warm flush of familiarity as I watched Julie cook the recipes for boeuf bourgignon, boned duck and of course lobster Thermidor.  Watching her struggle with a live lobster much as I had done myself a month before (see my August 2009 posts Lobster Saga I and II) I was left thinking -Blimey I wish I’d had Julie Powell’s idea before she did.

Finally, I was amused by the unconscious irony of screening a Flora advert before this film which has the goodness of butter as one of its central metaphors.

An enjoyable afternoon and a film I’d recommend for teenage boys in touch with their feminine side (hope that’s OK George!).

Here’s a link to the film website:

www.julieandjulia.com

And here’s an extract fromJulie Powell’s blog.  I have to say her prose, riddled with expletives, is not a patch on Julia’s lively and well considered writing:

http://blogs.salon.com/0001399/

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