I saw Julie & Julia earlier this week, and I figured I should talk about it a bit. It is based on Julie Powell’s first blog, The Julie/Julia Project (surprisingly hard to navigate, by the way), as well as on Julia Child’s My Life in France.
To her credit, Julie Powell was one of the first food bloggers, and also one of the first to publicly use a gimmick: “I will spend one year of my life doing this” (in her case, one year making the recipes from Julia Child’s first book). I usually like reading such stories (like certain books by A.J. Jacobs), and the Engineer is having his own project with Baking Illustrated (though his timeline is longer than a year and he is not documenting it). Julie Powell said she was doing it because she “was looking for a challenge”. Very well.
It certainly must have been a challenge, because she usually got home late from work (around 8 pm, if I’m not mistaken), and it usually took several hours to make dinner. She occasionally said that it gave her comfort to have control over that part of her life, because even when other things were not going her way (dead-end job, apartment she hates), she could at least rely on good food. But the problem is that she messed up the recipes relatively often, in the beginning at least, usually because she was disorganized. And reading her blog, I’m not 100% certain I would even call it a food blog – sure, its reason for being is food, but the food itself is rarely discussed, and there are no recipes. She mangles the names of the dishes, and it seems like she is writing in her blog out of duty, without much pleasure. I still haven’t read an entry where I get the sense that she is actually enjoying any of this; it seems like more of an interference than anything. Also, based on what I’ve read so far, it seems that Amy Adams portrayed her as a much more bubbly and – dare I say – lovable person than she really is. I believe she is supposed to be relatable to the average reader, but I admit I sometimes had trouble relating my life to hers (even though the gratuitous cursing did not bother me).
My favourite parts of the movie were actually the ones about Julia Child. Now there’s someone who had an interesting life, not really because of her circumstances, but because of her personality. Meryl Streep does an admirable job here, as always, and she is truly a pleasure to watch.
All this to say that while I understand people’s criticism that Julie Powell didn’t really do anything that would justify putting her on a pedestal next to Julia Child (who, incidentally, didn’t like the blog, precisely because she felt it lacked substance), I still found the topic interesting, and I enjoyed the movie.