At the movies, from the book: “Julie & Julia”

The subject of my my very first single-book review on this blog, posted April 28, 2007 (prior to that, the review posts had been round-ups), has now been made into a movie.

(Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously) intrigued me in the original hardcover, but since I only buy books in paperback I’ve been waiting to read it. It’s a lot of fun to read, more of a “memoir with food” than actual food writing…and I hadn’t realized that a much of it came from a blog she was keeping during the course of the “Julie/Julia Project.” Julie’s decision to undertake her Project out of dissatisfaction with her job and frustration over the direction her life is (or isn’t) going sounds a bit like an early midlife crisis, although it’s hitting her at the eve of her 30th birthday rather than past her 40th. And while the outcome may not have been what she expected when she started the Project, she did end up finding some new direction through its process and actual completion – although I think she only did Volume One of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, so she may have a Volume Two of the Project some day. She doesn’t include recipes, as I’m sure they are copyrighted, but describes many of her cooking adventures in enough detail that I don’t think I have any real interest in mastering the art of French cooking myself.

(That’s the b of my review; the rest of the post quoted the publisher’s description via If I say so myself, I’ve gotten a little better at this book-reviewing thing since then.)

Julie Powell started her project fully intending to document it on a blog at a time when blogs were much rarer than they are now, and when blog-to-book deals were still less common. Her original blog on is gone now, but she’s continued to blog on and off again on, like so many of us, for the last four years. Her descriptions of the blogging experience in the book inspired and influenced me a lot as I found my own footing as a blogger – thanks, Julie!

It turns out that it’s more interesting to read (and write) about blogging than it is to watch someone else do it, though, which is probably one reason that the parts of the movie Julie & Julia that focus on Julie (played by Amy Adams) are less compelling to general audiences. I liked them, though; it may have helped that I already knew Julie’s story, but I’m sure it also helped that as a blogger myself, I got it.

Julie’s book wasn’t really enough to build a full-length movie on, however, so Julie & Julia intercuts her story with that of her  inspiration: Julia Child, the French Chef herself, in a narrative based on Julia’s memoir My Life in France. It’s rarely necessary to say that Meryl Streep is outstanding in a particular role – it’s usually a given – but she fully inhabits the larger-than-life (in more ways than one) Julia. The story of Julia’s progression from at-loose-ends housewife to trained Cordon Bleu chef to cookbook author is a compelling one, and her passion for food and France is always made vivid. Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci are excellent together, and I hope Julia and Paul Child’s real-life marriage was as loving and supportive – and that they had as much fun together – as it looks like here.

I understand why some viewers have said that they’d rather have seen a movie just about Julia Child – perhaps that one will be made one day. She was a fascinating person, and hopefully Meryl Streep could be convinced to play the part again. But I think that weaving her story in with Julie Powell’s made Julie’s story into a better film. I genuinely enjoyed Julie & Juliaboth of them.
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  1. I think the weaving of the two stories is a great concept. Do you think, Florinda, that I would like this movie as someone who doesn't especially like to cook? Julie's blogging background though makes me curious.

  2. I liked the interweaving of the stories, too. The movie made me read (and review) Julie Powell's book recently–I'd never heard of it before.

  3. I think it's interesting how the movie cleaned up the image of Julie. Have you visited her blog? What a potty mouth! I enjoyed the blog more as it seemed a bit more real as opposed to the Disney-fied version of Julie that Amy Adams portrayed.

  4. Wendy (Literary Feline) – I don't think you need to be into cooking to enjoy either the book or the movie. I was originally interested in the book because I enjoy food writing, but it's definitely more than just that. However, I do think bloggers are more likely to appreciate those parts of the story.

    Jeanne – Somehow I missed your review of the book a couple of weeks ago – sorry about that! You captured a lot of what I liked about it.

    Lenore – She was an early rider on the blogging train. I think it's not exactly her main priority these days – she has a new book coming out soon – but she's still at it.

    Ti – I haven't been to her blog for awhile. I used to subscribe to it, but she wasn't a frequent updater, so I stopped. But the language there is consistent with her book πŸ™‚ – and it was one of the things I wondered how the movie would handle.

    Kathy (Bermudaonion) – I can't say that watching someone blog is riveting film-making, but I do think they got it right :-).

  5. This was your first review? That's kind of neat.

    I agree, watching someone blog could be pretty boring, just ask Jenn? My movie would consist of me sitting here, with iTunes playing and occasionally getting up to let the dogs out. So, why haven't they made a movie about me yet? πŸ™‚

  6. Mike – For some reason, watching people cook is much more interesting than watching them blog. Go figure. Is that why there's a Food Network on TV but not a Blog Network :-)?

    Oh, and "dogs"? When did that happen?

  7. My daughter, who is interested in culinary arts, and I went to see this movie two weeks ago. I totally agree with your entire review!! I had read Julie and Julia about 3 years ago and that was my first introduction into the concept of writing a "blog" While the premise of the book (and blog) was fascinating to me, the constant cussing was a definite turn off. Because of this, I was a bit hesitant to go to the movie.

    Not only was the language not a problem in the movie, but the interweaving of the two books into one cohesive film is absolutely superb. It also provided an opportunity for some great discussions with my teenager — a very nice fringe benefit!

  8. Marie – I thought both were fun, and not exactly in the same way, which was nice.

    Molly – I agree with you about the way the stories were interwoven (and am glad they cleaned up Julie's language a bit, too). Glad you and your daughter got a good discussion out of the movie, too!

  9. I'm looking forward to seeing this one. I read and reviewed this a couple of months ago, but I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought that I might. I've heard great reviews of the movie, though, so I will definitely check it out.