I saw the movie Julie & Julia last week & liked it very much. It interweaves the story of how Julia Child, the wife of a USian diplomat stationed in Paris, came to write Mastering the Art of French Cooking with the story of how Julie Powell, a twenty-nine year old woman who worked on a telephone hotline for people affected by the World Trade Center attack, came to prepare all 524 dishes in Child’s book over the course of a year and blog about doing it.
Over coffee the morning after seeing the film I noodled around the internets reading reviews and was surprised by a theme that cropped up in many of them–that the parts of the film featuring Meryl Streep as Julia Child were engaging, as was their subject, while the parts featuring Amy Adams as Julie Powell were a bore, and their subject (Powell) was at best negligible, and at worst, a narcissistic leech. Many of these reviews (some of them written by “professionals” on major sites, others by bloggers on less well-traveled sites) were distinctly snotty in tone. Roger Ebert, for example, started his review
“Did you ever want to take a three-day bus trip sitting next to Julia Child?”
and the guy at Cinema de Merde entitled his review “Get your own life” and summarized Julie and Julia thus:
[It compares] a modest woman of inner resources who accomplishes something monumental through hard work, and another who feels a lack in herself because she’s not as accomplished as she thinks she should be, and ends up accomplishing something entirely trivial that is made possible by our culture of paying attention to meaningless personal drama.
Robert Wilonsky’s review in the Village Voice is called “In praise of the Julia half of Julie and Julia”; in it he praises Streep & Child and deposits mild scorn on Powell (while tossing a crumb or two to Adams). In SFGate, Mick LaSalle goes gaga over Streep/Child and says things about Powell that I consider too churlish to repeat here.
Unlike many reviewers, I liked both the Julia story and the Julie story; I liked the entire movie, and indeed I liked both women.
Below, a few observations on the Julie/Julia story (but not a movie review proper) intermixed with some grand philosophical musings on The Meaning of Life, Snotty Reviews, Reactions to War, George Plimpton, My Own Delusions & Narcissistic Compulsions & What They Have Cost Me and Others, Roger Banister, and Writing.
UPDATE: Since originally posting this I’ve made a minor edits for clarity and emphasis. I may make a few more.