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 bulk of my review; the rest of the post quoted the publisher’s description via Amazon.com. 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 Salon.com is gone now, but she’s continued to blog on and off again on Blogger.com, 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 & Julia – both of them.