Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Review of Julie and Julia

I have a new partner in crime! Lizzy will be helping out with posts. We took our love of cooking to the movies last week to see Julie and Julia.

Contributed by Lizzy....

I have read neither of the books adapted for the “Julie/Julia” screenplay. I usually try to stay away from the film of a book I read, or from reading a book that was made into a film I watched. There are only a few exceptions to this rule, one of them being “Heartburn” or Heartburn. And this example may not necessarily count, as the author and the screenwriter are one in the same, as well as the woman responsible for writing, producing and directing “Julie/Julia”, Nora Ephron. The genre of romantic comedy has really begun to scrape the bottom of the barrel in the past few years, cases in point, “The Wedding Date,”“The Wedding Planner” and “The Awful Truth.” The list could go on and on really, since even good romantic comedies are inherently bad and cutesy, polarizing in their representation of gender dynamics and reliant on tired, uninspired screwball comedy tropes. However, even if you hate the frothy, effervescent-ness of this genre, you can count on Nora Ephron to make a smarter than average romantic comedy/ drama.

The synthesis of the reviews of “Julie/Julia” is that it is Meryl Streep’s Oscar to loose and the osculating storytelling between Julia Childs’ life in post World-War II France and Julie Powell’s life in post 9/11 New Yorkcreates two halves of a disjointed movie rather than a cohesive film. The viewer is left longing for more Julia and less Julie. Meryl’s performance is a must see because she has the ability to make you forget she existed as anyone else but the person she is playing in a film. Her representation of Julia Childs is pitch perfect and infectious. It reminded me of how much fun I had watching Julia when I was a kid, how silly I thought she was and how she made me laugh without even trying. Amy Adams plays Julie Powell as kind of a cutesy bitch, and while Adams is an open and approachable actress, Julie Powell is being painted as narcissistic with tendencies towards childish tantrums and petulance. I agree that Julie is those things, but, she also becomes self aware, or Nora Ephron begins to present her as more self aware about half way through the film, and Igot on board with her character more. Also, lets be fair, it is very easy to love and respect Meryl’s Julia Childs. She is so effervescent and strapping; Julie Childs lived, loved and laughed loudly and people were drawn to her like a moth to a flame. Julie Powell didn’t stand a chance going into a popularity contest up against the likes of that; none of us would. While more Streep screen timewould have been great, maybe it would have been too much of a good thing.

I disagree with a lot of critics and have to say I really enjoyed the way the two stories played together. Julie aptly portrays the guilt many post-modern women feel, the backlash of being told we can “do it all” when we were little girls and adolescents. We feel bad when we cannot do it all. We have so many rights that we didn’t have to fight for, and while there is a ways to go before we can claim full equal rights, we can all agree of how far we have come since the McCarthy Era. Julie Powell captures a very 2009 thirty year old woman, feeling left behind by college friends hungry for power and success and stymied in making her dreams a reality because she is depressed at the thought that she is too late to become a success. I liked the juxtaposition of Julia fighting to figure out what “to do” with herself, as she was not fond of the feminine arts and she and her husband were unable to have children, with Julie fighting against the fear that she hasn’t done enough to justify her 30 year old existence.

The real star of the film is the food, which is lusciously portrayed every way food can be presented; its’ sinful, fun, scary, dangerous, sensual and powerful. Anyone familiar with Nora Ephron knows that she is a foodie and can recognize and enjoy that this movie is a love song to how happy preparing and eating food has made her. There were times that my girlfriends and I were literally bouncing in our seats with bubbling happiness and excitement over food and the love the people making the food had for one another; I very rarely experience that when going to the movies. I am glad that Nora focused on making the food look so good and that she made it look possible to make your dreams come true, at any age.

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