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Friday, February 19, 2010

Julie & Julia (and me)

Earlier this year I joined a reading challenge hosted by C.B. James at Ready When You Are, C.B.  I signed up for four books and movies for 2010. My record of completing book challenges is pretty sketchy....well, none actually....but I'm determined to see it through, even if I bore all of you to tears. So here goes.


I'm pretty sure that reviews of  Julie & Julia and 'Julie & Julia' have inundated cyberspace since the release of the book and, subsequently, the movie. Most of you have read and/or watched it, so none of this will be news to you. Feel free to go on your merry way...I won't be hurt. Well, not too much anyway.

Julie Powell was drowning in a pit of government bureaucracy as a temp for an agency dealing with proposals for the 9/11 memorial site. Mostly she answered phone calls from irate/depressed/crying/nutjob citizens who required having their two cents heard by someone...anyone. Needless to say, this job was bringing Julie down.

After visiting her parents in Texas, Julie brought home a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. Her brainchild was conceived.

What if she made all 524 recipes in 365 days? Annnd, what if she wrote about it in a blog? (Blog? What the heck's a blog?)  Julie's perception that doing this could redeem her flotsam/jetsam life and make it worthwhile is the core of the book. That she does it with laugh-out-loud, gut-busting humor in a kitchen that would fit inside one of JC's pantries is a delight. Julie doesn't spare any of the gory details, either in the kitchen, or in her personal life which suffers in a year filled with emotional ups and downs.

The movie was wonderful. I love Amy Adams, and she made Julie's character a little less dark and a lot perkier (well, Amy is perky) and sweeter. The book is much, shall we say, earthier (is that a word?) than the movie, but I thought the film stayed fairly true to the written word which is unusual in Hollywood.

The main event for me was Meryl Streep's spot-on portrayal of Julia Child. She brought so much humanity and warmth to the icon that is Julia. The romance between Julia and Paul (the delicious Stanley Tucci) was touching and real and if Meryl doesn't win the Academy Award, it will be highway robbery. (Sorry, Sandra, you know I love you, but you also know I'm right!)

Unfortunately, about halfway through the book, I googled Julie Powell, and I wish I hadn't. Revelations about her personal life almost made me put it down for good, but I picked it back up and it just happened to be during the lobster-murdering part. I was so grossed out, but laughing hysterically at the same time, and I knew that I had to continue reading. And I'm glad I did. If you haven't already, you'll be glad you did, too.

33 comments:

Judy said...

I can say I really enjoyed the movie. I got a big laugh out of the blogging... since I have now become a blogger. I'm rooting for Meryl too.

Char said...

i totally agree with you on all points. in reading the book i found i really disliked julie powell - i thought she was rather rude about her readers. i haven't read her next book about becoming a butcher. i was grossed out enough about the lobsters and the beef marrow - i can't imagine reading more of that.

Sandy Nawrot said...

First of all, I was enraged at myself that I didn't come up with the idea first and become filthy rich! I can cook! I can blog! I can cuss! Julie Powell, in some ways, did remind me of myself. I can out-talk a trucker, and I've thrown food items when they don't cooperate with me. Julie's REAL personal life is a bit of a mess though, and I don't want much part of that. I loved the movie. I love Stanley Tucci and Meryl Streep. She made that film SHINE! (If you haven't read My Life in France, do so now!)

Susan said...

Judy, I know! It was interesting hearing about blogging from someone who got into it when it wasn't the huge thing that it is today. I'll never forget those first few(dozen) posts when I waited patiently for someone to comment.

Susan said...

Char, I agree, and I also found her to be extremely self-centered and not very considerate of her husband's feelings. I'm sure I won't be reading the butchering book either.

JackeeG4glamorous said...

Got the book - it's in a stack towards the bottom. Can't see the movie til I read the book. It's in my POLICY.

Meryl is pretty awesome isn't she?
Except, sorry, I didn't care for Mama Mia. Even with the Abba songs. I didn't want to see Pierce Brosnan look so paunchy, and Colin Firth nervous and all. I prefer my own fantasies of them.

Susan said...

Sandy, you may be a lot like Julie is some ways, but what you are not is inconsiderate of others' feelings. Yeah, I got really icked out after reading that stuff about her, and well, her hubby's no saint either.

We totally could have done what she did! And we have better kitchens!! lol

I can't think of a movie in which Meryl doesn't shine! I'm really glad that this one spent as much or more time on Julia as they did Julie (not so much in the book). And My Life in France is now on my TBR list.

Susan said...

Jackee, dig that book out! Forthwith!! You must read it so you can get to the movie. That's my policy, too. This is one of those rare times that the movie did not disappoint, mainly because of Meryl and Stanley.

I couldn't make it past 30 minutes of 'Mamma Mia'. In my opinion, it was a train wreck. I didn't watch it long enough to see if Meryl redeemed it in any way. And, yes, I want my Colin Firth and Pierce Brosnan dashing and debonair. That's why I can't bring myself to go see 'A Single Man', although I've heard it's one of his best.

Elle Bee said...

This was a spot on review. Wasn't Meryl Streep WONDERFUL!?!

Deborah said...

Well Susan, you might be happy to know that you weren't preaching to ALL the converted. I have neither read the book nor seen the movie (although I am aware of their existence...not having my head completely down a hole) so on the basis of your review, I'll get the book!
Thanks!!! xoxo

Ruth said...

Having seen the movie, but not having read the book, I was surprised about Julie. I had no idea she was rude and cussy. AA makes her so cute and lovable.

I adored Streep in this role. I forgot she was Streep actually. And I was in tears by the end, just so touched by Childs' sweet spirit, what a huge heart and life. And weren't she and her sister played by Jane Lynch of the Christopher Guest ensemble wonderful together? I was so so touched by their relationship. They lived in such joy in their identity.

stacybuckeye said...

You're one-fourth of the way to finishing your first challenge! Congratulations!
I know everyone is talking about it, but I haven't had a big desire to read or see this one. I feel like I know everything just from all of the reviews I've read.
Oh, and I will watch anything with Colin Firth, but his new movie? I just can't do it! I need him sexy and debonair too!

CottageGirl said...

First off ... I've got to get this out of the way ...

I miss you Julia. You saved me in more ways than you can guess. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Ok ... Thanks for letting me get that out of the way ...

I just watched Julie and Julia again last night for the probably 15th time.

I know Amy's gotten a bit of a bad rap for the movie, but I really loved her in it. I found her character believable and endearing.

Of course, Meryl IS Julia. How hard would that be to play such a well known, quirky character ... and nail it!

Lovely review, Susan!!!

Susan said...

Elle, yes she was and always is. Meryl Streep knows how to nail a character, even one as large as life, such as Julia!

Thank you.

Susan said...

Deborah, I'm so happy that my review convinced you to read the book! I hope it wasn't misleading in any way. I tried to make it interesting without giving away too much. I'm interested in knowing your views after you've read it.

Susan said...

Oh yes, Ruthie, Julie is quite the cursing queen in real life. I'm sure Nora Ephron toned that down in the movie because a lot of people would have been turned off by it. Amy Adams was adorable in the role with just the right amount of the real Julie.

I'm telling you, I will have to buy this movie just so I can watch the Julia parts over and over. And you're so right about the sister relationship! I forgot to include that! Jane Lynch was perfect for that role. I'm surprised she wasn't nominated for supporting actress. They had such joie de vivre!

Susan said...

Thanks, Stacy! You know, I felt the same way about the book/movie. I'm usually reluctant to partake when everyone is raving about something (I'm kind of weird that way), but when I saw the book at the library, I said what the hey. I'm really glad I picked it up! And it was nice to be able to watch the movie immediately after I finished. Really, don't let thinking you know everything about it stop you from experiencing it. Especially Meryl's Julia. It really is worth all the kudos.

Susan said...

Dear CG, you really DO love Julia, don't you! I forgot how much I missed seeing her on television, but watching the movie and then looking over the clips on YouTube made me remember what a breath of fresh air she was in such an uptight era. She was beautiful, in every way.

I hope I didn't sound as if I didn't like AA in the Julie role! I thought she was exceptional for the way they wrote the part! The movie Julie was just so much different than the book Julie. Amy Adams is a really good actress.

I loved the relationship between Julia and Paul. You could just see the love and respect he had for her shining out of his eyes. Stanley Tucci is a very under-appreciated actor. And Meryl...actress of the ages. She just nails it every time, doesn't she?

culdesacchronicles said...

Well, I thought I was the only person left in North America who hadn't seen this movie, but I see I'm not. I can't wait to see it. My son and daughter-in-law gave it to me for Christmas. I can't believe I haven't watched it yet. It's as if I'm saving it, savoring the anticipation. Maybe I'll watch it this weekend. Thanks for the review.

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

I actually just saw the movie the other day when my new neighbour lent it to us.
I really enjoyed Meryl's part - and yes, you definitely have to move My Life in France to the top of your TBR list.
But the Julie part of the movie was annoying to me. I have a hard time watching someone that neurotic and self-absorbed. I haven't read the book, waiting for it to fall in my lap. I have heard horror stories about the new book and some sick part of me wouldn't mind taking a look at it just to see for myself. ;-)

ps, word verification - buzed

Lindsey said...

It was when I watched the movie that I even learned what a blog is, and then I began my own. Thanks, Julie & Julia!!!!
Lindsey Petersen
http://5kidswdisabilities.wordpress.com

Susan said...

Bella, I know what you mean about savoring the anticipation. I do that sometimes. I don't think you will be disappointed.

Susan said...

Natashya, if you were less than in love with the Julie part in the movie, you would really hate her in the book, although she actually makes more sense in the book.

I find it interesting that she decided to study butchering after the experience with the beef marrow which was not covered in the movie. Apparently it gets into your blood, or something.

I will definitely move My Life in France to the top of the list.

Susan said...

Lindsey, thank you for visiting my blog! I took a quick look at a couple of your posts and I really like what you have to say. I'll be back to visit again. And welcome to blogland!

Jenny said...

Great review. Loved Meryl Streep in this. I wasn't a fan of Julie either.

Oliag said...

I love this review and I loved the movie...especially all the parts in Paris...the food, the scenes, Streep, Tucci, Lynch, the great love story. I was not crazy about all the modern NYC scenes...I found the Julie part to be whiney, and irritating. So I guess that even though I haven't read the book it was based on I got the right idea about her character...

I have read that someone is now blogging about cooking all the recipes in a Martha Stewart cookbook...

Susan said...

Thank you, Jenny...that seems to be the consensus, at least in this little corner anyway.

Susan said...

Haha! I guess it was bound to happen, Oliag! There's probably tons of bloggers out there furiously cooking their little hearts out, poring over Martha's cookbook, The Joy of Cooking, Gourmet, Bon Appetit, etc. "If Julie can do it, so can I!!" The only difference with the Martha one is Martha will want to play herself in the movie! ;)

Glad you liked the review! XO

steviewren said...

I can't speak to the book because I haven't read it. Probably won't either...most everything I've read about it says the movie is better.

I loved the movie and agree completely with you about Meryl Streep's performance. It was perfect!

California Girl said...

Just finished "My Life in France". Just back from a week on the coast of Maine. We stopped at a lobster pound while traveling; the kind where the lobsters are offloaded from the fishing boats. There were hundreds of lobsters in pools everywhere. It was about 40 degrees; very warm for Feb. We ordered a 3 pounder for lunch but when the lobsterman weighed it, I almost started to cry. He just looked at me.

"Do you want it or not?"

I guess they see this from city folk all the time. My husband told him we wanted it. Into the giant steamer he went. I had to walk outside to the car. It took quite a while. I felt TERRIBLE.

It was the best lobster I've ever had.

VaNeSsA said...

Oh, I'm so glad you watched it! Isn't it wonderful? Based on your advice, I am choosing not to read the book (I know, it's terrible, but I really have so little time to read for pleasure except for my beloved blogs and about 1 book every three months, and I don't want the real JP to poo on my heart-image of her). I WILL, however, be reading My Life in France !!

Susan said...

Vanessa, I'm not sorry I read the book...it was very entertaining and well-written. But I saw her new book Cleaving in the library yesterday, and I had no desire to check it out.

I'm looking for a copy of My Life in France on the internet that isn't too expensive. Shhhh, I've been buying too many books lately. They just keep piling up. It's hard to resist when I find them for $2.00 or less.

Kim Living Life said...

I loved the movie love Meryl in it and will buy it just to hear her accent over and over hysterical. But so funny to know that the real Julia actually did speak like that funny!!! I didn't know either that Julie was a cusser interesting, haven't read the book probably won't now that I've seen the pic though. Great review