This is the third installment of a feature we call “Harpy Cinematical Society,” in which we watch a movie (new or old) en masse and then replicate for you our subsequent discussions about it.
The subject of this discussion is Nora Ephron’s Julie & Julia, starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. This is a brief Cinematical Society discussion, and we realize that the film has been out for a month, but we still thought it’d be worth it to throw our thoughts into the mix. The film is a dual narrative of the years Julia Child (played by Streep) spent in France, and the attempts of blogger Julie Powell (played by Adams) to cook all of Child’s dishes in one year.
sarah.of.a.lesser.god: This movie almost made me want to learn to cook. Almost. But it did nudge me into buying brie on my way home. The “Julie” section of the movie was far less enjoyable (read: not really enjoyable at all), but all of the Julia Child scenes were more than worth the price of admission. Imagine: a successful Hollywood movie about a successful woman. The film does not define her through her marriage, and it takes only the briefest of moments to allude to the fact that she does not have children. Instead, she is defined by who she is and what she does. Oh, and the filmmakers aren’t squicked out by the fact that she and her husband have sex even though they’re not the standard Hollywood pretty young things. (When’s the last time you saw that in a mainstream summer movie?)
As for the food issue, I was really nervous about that going into the theater because I have my own issues in that area. And I rolled my eyes REALLY HARD when, at one point, Julie Powell (Amy Adams) says she looks fat in a picture, and her friend says “Only your face.” Lots of laughs from the people around me. Oh, ha. Funny. Preying on the weight-based insecurities of people is hysterical. And in what universe is Adams’ face “fat”? It’s not. Which is the point. There’s never a peep from Julia Child’s scenes about weight. Is that a reflection on Child, on the absolute obsession with the weight of modern America (the one Julie lives in). Or is it neither? I may, as usual, be overanalyzing this…
BeckySharper: Ugh, I was so not into the Julie storyline. That part was fairly predictable, and while I love Amy Adams, Julie just seemed so whiny and fussy, and frankly, immature. I couldn’t figure out why her husband put up with her. Although, to be fair, Julie Powell does comes across that way in her memoir as well, so it’s not like Nora Ephron deliberately did her a disservice. I think the whole “fat face” thing was just one in a stack of little illustrative bits meant to show how insecure Julie was…like her relationship with her undermining mom and her lunch with the high-power frenemies, which was overdone to the point of caricature, IMO.
But the Julia part was just so incredibly wonderful. Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci were so magical together. Tucci underplayed that role so well–I just sat back and basked in his admiration/adoration for Julia. I also loved all the sexy bits between them–it made perfect sense both in the context of their blissful, long-lived marriage and in the overall sensuality of their foodie/travel-happy life together. The one very small blip for me was that Julia was in her 30s when she moved to Paris, and Meryl Streep is about 20 years older, so she was portraying Julia as middle-aged when actually, she wasn’t. But it didn’t really matter too much, because she fit the mental image that people have of Julia, which is middle-aged, since that’s when she started appearing on TV.
And I loved the part with Julia and her sister Dorothy. Because it just cemented the idea that you don’t have to be young and beautiful to have devoted, loving husbands.
PhDork:I didn’t see the film (because I have poor reading skills), but really, I just want to see a biopic of Julia Child starring Meryl Streep. “Julia & More Julia.”
BeckySharper: For real. All due respect to Amy Adams and Julie Powell, I would have been perfectly happy with no Julie at all.
sarah.of.a.lesser.god: Agreed. I could have also done without Powell’s husband being portrayed as this perfect, puppy-ish sweetheart. Child’s husband (Tucci) was a far more interesting character. But maybe there should be a sequel — instead of Powell cooking Child’s dishes, we simply have Meryl Streep reading Child’s recipes aloud. You know she could make it compelling, brilliant entertainment!