Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Julie & Julia, thoughts on the book (that is, the book based on the blog, that is the source material for the major motion picture)

I will say up front, I did not enjoy Julie & Julia as much as I expected.

After doing the "Reel People" post about Julia Child and Julie Powell, I instantly became interested in Julia Child. I felt like Julia Child's life had such an interesting course of events.

This interest in Julia Child was only reinforced by her posthumous biography My Life in France. If I was having a dinner party and I could invite anyone, I would easily consider inviting Julia Child over, not just to cook, but for the conversation.

Julie Powell's book, Julie & Julia is largely the inspiration, and half the source material for the upcoming motion picture.

As mentioned in the "reel people" post on Julie Powell's life, Julia Powell began a blog in 2002 called the Julie/Julia project, where she was going to try to make every recipe (524 apparently) in Child's Mastering The Art of French Cooking.

Enough introduction to this post. Here's some thoughts on the book, based on a blog, soon a major motion picture.

1. If you were going to read one of the source books to the upcoming movie, I'd actually recommend My Life in France by Julia Child, the story is more captivating, and I think the character of Child is more...endearing, shall we say?

2. Julia Powell's quest is ambitious. Not just kind of ambitious, but super ambitious in so many ways. The more I think about what she did, the more amazed I am by it. Julia Powell in essence made a Thanksgiving-esque dinner every night she came home from work (usually picking up the ingredients on her way home from work) so that she could complete her project.

3. As a blogger, I find her story interesting, because I think a lot of people may not understand the connection/reaction Powell has to her bloggers, and their comments, and readership without experiencing it themselves.

4. One of the most surprising aspects of this book is Julie Powell's "coarseness" shall I say...she is shameless in her discussion of her less than fascinating love life, her experience with pornography as a young child, and consistently aggressive language with multiple uses of the F-word -- hardly family reading...and clearly something that isolated and attracted blog readers.

5. The book interestingly enough mentions Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci who will be in the upcoming film adaptation. Powell was supposed to see Stanley Tucci in "Frankie and Johnny" on Broadway (with Edie Falco) to celebrate her Father's birthday but was unable to go due to a day of bad moving experiences. Merly Steep is mentioned because one of the first times Powell is breaking eggs she mentions the grace that Streep cracks eggs in the film The Hours. (In the film Streep and Tucci play Paul & Julia Child).

6. While Julia Powell mentions this two actors in the book it is clear that her heart really belongs to David Strathairn (who she has baked for twice, including the second time when she saw him in a reading of Solome during the project). As a child, Powell's crush was on Jason Bateman (I couldn't help but wonder if she's had a chance to meet him yet since her fame...now that would make a good segment on Ellen or another talk show -- have Julia Powell read her pervie thoughts about Bateman she had as a child, while he's sitting in a chair next to her)

7. Julie Powell never had a chance to meet Julia Child -- it's a tragedy, especially since Powell had/has the impression that Child didn't care for her interest and work she was doing.

8. I think it's relatively easy for some blogs to get turned into books -- but for a blog to get turned into a movie, I think this is an uncommon occurrence.

9. I thought that in many way Powell's husband Eric was very very very supportive of Julie's project. In fact, it was his idea she start a blog in the first place, and not only did the blog provide her with eventual fame, it also provided her life with meaning, structure, and freedom from many of the personal frustrations she was experiencing in her own life, specifically physically and professionally. I felt like Julie Powell did not embrace Eric's support in the same way Julia Child embraced Paul's support...in many ways it's a pity.

10. There are many things that Julia Powell makes that I would never ever consider making, any ingredients I never want to work with - props to her for doing the project so completely, bone marrow, kidneys, eggs in aspic and all.

Final note: I wonder how Nora Ephron wrote the part of Julie Powell in the movie, and how Amy Adams plays this role. With the "coarseness" of Powell (point #4) be toned down in the film? Will Adams bring her light & fluffy? Or will be surprised with Adam's starts throwing around sexual analogies for how she is preparing her duck dish?


Anonymous said...

I didn't make it all the way through the book as I lost interest about half way in...mostly because I found Julie to be quite an UN-charming / non-redeeming character. I honestly cannot imagine Amy Adam protraying her. I think I picture of of a Camryn Manheim from The Practice...

I am looking forward to this film, though.

Unknown said...

I read it in record time – found it hard to put down yet, oddly, I can’t give it an unequivocal thumbs up. I delighted in every tale of cooking a dish and every flashback to Julia Child's story (passages taken from her autobiography) but I never found the Julie Powell to be charming at all. It seemed so clearly a … how to put this … girl-centric story; very Sex and the City or Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants or the like. I never want to hear another word about Julie Powell's ovary problems or crazy girlfriend problems or lust for David Straithairn. But I could read for hours about her travails with live lobsters or making ladyfingers soaked in amaretto to line a cake pan or digging marrow out of cow bones. It’s as though the book had a split personality, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or something. Part of it was fascinating and part of it was excruciating. It reminded me of that Devil in the White City book in which I just drank in all the descriptions of building and operating the Chicago World’s Fair while loathing all the side-story about the serial killer. Couldn’t put that book down either even though I was disgusted by big parts of it.