A moving film about personal achievement and maximizing personal potential
I loved this film, which is surprising given two things. first, i am not a food guy. i don't appreciate gourmet cooking and i can't cook anything that doesn't involve a microwave. i don't really enjoy going to restaurants and i would rather watch bowling or golf (two sports that i loathe) than any cooking show. food plays less of a role in my life than it does for most people. oddly enough, however, i have seen an unusually large amount of julia child. my ex-wife was a devoted viewer of julia's show so her voice is emblazoned onto my brain in an indelible way. second, i'm not a fan of meryl streep. i make no defense of this. she simply rubs me the wrong way. the most i can say in making a case against her is that i'm always aware of her "acting." i find her deliberate and self-conscious and always "plying her craft." i was delighted when i heard katherine hepburn make the same claim. there is no doubting her talent, but for me i'm always conscious of her as an actress assuming a role, instead of becoming the role. i will not argue against anyone who believes that she is the greatest actress of her age. this is about me and my reaction to her. and it is a positive one. so, the film had these two large marks against it from my perspective, so when i say that i loved the movie, it had a fair amount to overcome. so why did i enjoy this film so much, despite my built in biases? because both the stories in the film - that of julia childs and julie power - were about everyday people deciding to do something that no one expected them to do. julia child undertaking french cooking more as a hobby, a pleasant way of passing the time, or julie powell writing her own blog detailing her cooking all of the recipes in the book that grew out of julia's book. there is no difference between julia learning to cook or julie writing a blog and any of us - me, you, her, or him - undertaking a self-empowering project. (this resonated very strongly with me because i am seriously contemplating starting my own blog, either on an established website or by starting my own website.) maybe the projects that we take on won't result in publishing a book or having a movie made, but the important thing is doing something that engages our interests, that excites us, that makes us feel, in the words of the singer hayden, that every day is too short. this is, in short, an inspirational movie. and frankly, as i've been thinking of starting my own blog (split between writing on culture and writing on contemporary politics), i have realized that i have a built in hesitancy in starting this project that this film made me feel should not be decisive. i felt, watching this, that i should . . . just start the damned blog already! in short, just as julie was inspired by the story of julia child mastering the art of french cooking, so i was inspired by julie's story. we should all be inspired to do whatever we would like to do, but have been prevented only by fear or failure. maybe my blog will be junk and maybe no one will read it, but i've wanted to undertake it. hopefully the story of julie and julia will inspire others to take on projects that they've wanted to. so yeah, this movie hit me where i live. and that is the mark of a really good movie; it sucks you in and makes you a part of it. even if one doesn't experience this as a inspirational film, it is a ton of fun on a host of other levels. the cast is extraordinary, with supporting actors of the quality of stanley tucci and jane lynch in small but important roles. as i said, i'm probably meryl streep's smallest fan, but she really nailed julia childs's voice. she absolutely and completely nailed the voice, even though she was physically wrong for the role. meryl streep is half a foot too small for the role and really has not facial resemblance to her, but make up, pulling out every trick in the book for making her look taller (extremely high heels, surrounding steep with shorter actors, the use of extremely short actors, and the constant use of forced perspective (the technique whereby someone is moved to the foreground while everyone else is kept in the background to make them look taller - this technique is used constantly in the harry potter films to make the 6'1 robbie coltrane to look over 8' as hagrid). frankly, streep is not very convincing as child . . . except for the voice. i hit youtube after seeing the film and watched some clips of julia child and cold detect no difference between steep's voice and childs's. i had a much easier time enjoying amy adams as julie powell. adams is not the virtuoso that meryl streep is, but she always seems so tremendously natural in every role she plays. and as julie she plays her as everywoman. she plays just an everyday person. they definitely glam her down for the role, giving her a remarkably nondescript hairdo and minimizing her astonishing good looks (though they can't hide those huge blue eyes). (i have to confess that i also have a soft spot for amy adams because she bears a sharp resemblance to an ex-girlfriend.) the plot is a simple one. julie powell, feeling somewhat distraught that a pompous and somewhat absurd friend has started her own blog, decides to start her own blog. but what on? her husband suggests doing it on something she loves. well, she loves julia childs book on cooking. so she decides to cook every recipe in childs's book and blog about it. the blog later was published as a book and . . . as the closing credits point out, made into a movie. this is all told in parallel with the story leading up to julia childs's growth of an interest in french cooking, her development of her interest, and her eventual publication of mastering the art of french cooking, the book that popularized gourmet cooking in america. the one really odd twist in their parallel stories is when julie learns that julia, who was aware of the blog, was disdainful of it. i would have liked to know more about this, about precisely why she found it disrespectful. one hears few bad things about julia childs, but this particular tidbit does not place her in a very nice light. but you have to respect powell for pushing forward with her own project despite the disapproval of her idol. one little twist delighted me. you know the game where you get to name the six people you would like to invite to dinner? one of the people i would invite is bernard devoto, a brilliant man of letters from the mid-twentieth century, who wrote a series of brilliant popular histories and was a columnist for harper's (in his column the easy chair devoto initiated a public information campaign against the attempt by some in congress to sell off a huge percentage of public lands in america - he is credited with almost single-handedly stopping making most public lands private, arguably the greatest environmental achievement in american history). devoto was a tremendous prose writer, a powerful personality, and a natural teacher (wallace stegner was devoto's best student). so i was delighted when devoto's widow, avis devoto, appeared in the film as the talent scout who let an editor at alfred knopf know about julia's book. i have actually read a book that avis solicited. she asked wallace stegner to write a biography of bernard. somewhat against his own inclination, stegner agreed, producing the exceptionally nice bio the uneasy chair. i strongly recommend this film. and i hope that it inspires others, like it has me, to undertake their own projects. (i've already started researching web hosting services and seeing what site names are available. julie and julia pursued their own interests and so should we all.