Sunday, September 6, 2009

JULIE & JULIA - A Review, Sort Of

The Southern Woman That I Married and I had a date last week. Yes, after nearly 40 years together we occasionally date. We have to. We're busy folks. If we want to be certain to spend time together, time that does not involve the television, we make a date.

But I digress...

TSWTIM and I went to see Julie & Julia last week. We are both great fans of Julia Child. TSWTIM because she learned to cook in great part thanks to her Francophile Uncle Johnny, who in turn provided his sister, TSWTIM's mother, with several French cookbooks and urged her to use them. Me because I learned to eat at an early age. And for both of us, Julia's unapologetically enthusiastic style of cooking that embraces richness of flavor and, more importantly, BUTTER satisfies our culinary needs.

But I digress…

TSWTIM informs me that the movie is reasonably faithful to the book. That is, the movie moves between the lives of Julia Child and Julie Powell. Julia, beloved wife of mid-level diplomat Paul Child, refused to play the part of a bored diplomat’s wife with too much time on her hands and, with the unwavering support of her husband, changed the landscape of the American palate through her love for French cuisine and her desire to pass that love on to her countrywomen. Hence, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, a seminal cookbook in the lives of many American women of a certain generation. Julie Powell was a bored low-level bureaucrat whose modern marriage, like so many, seemingly consisted of rooming with a man with whom she had sex. Bored with the job, her friends and, presumably, the man and the sex, Julie decides to cook all of the recipes in Julia’s magnum opus and blog about the experience.

Meryl Streep, Stanley Tucci, and the players who surround them are simply marvelous. How does Meryl do it? At one and the same time you are keenly aware that Meryl is playing a part and that she is so immersed in the part that she’s no longer Meryl. How DOES she do it?

The young folks who play Julie and her ilk are who they are…who TSWTIM tells me they clearly are in the book…self-centered, uninteresting Gen-(Pick a letter)ers.

Thus, the movie is an exercise in schizophrenia…periods of engrossing, wondrous acting alternating with periods of wondering why we should care about the people on the screen. If I were a mental health professional suggesting a cure for this illness, I would prescribe radical surgery, the excision of all things Julie, leaving twice as much room for the lives of Julia and Paul. It wouldn’t have been true to the book but it would have been one hell of a movie.

As it is, Julie & Julia is well worth watching.

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