>the writer’s plight in julie & julia

>irony always finds its way to bite.

who would expect that a film depicting everything that i find exasperating, self-absorbed and flash-in-pan-fame about modern media and blog culture would be just the impetus for me to fervently jot down my response online?

more than most, i would only assume.

i had been looking very forward to seeing julie & julia since the frenzy started, from the previews to the screenings to the opening weekend (last) and subsequent film writeups. naturally, being a complete food obsessive and starving-artist writer, i was piqued from the get-go. and despite many opportunities to watch it from last friday on, i kept the suspense so i could watch it with fresh eyes with my friend frank (a classifiably starving artist who chooses to eat exceptionally well) last night at the illuminated-owl lined screening room in the somerville theatre.

to prepare our minds and bellies, we supped at hungry mother, where i always manage to feel, in foolproof measures, better and better with each subsequent visit. seeing duane warmed my heart (the becherovka-laced no. 57 took care of the belly), not to mention learning that alon and rachel just celebrated the birth of their baby daughter, mira. john emerging from the sweltering kitchen in an apron and ear-to-ear grin, jennifer stashing a 40 of miller high life in a brown bag before delivering it to a table, naomi retelling stories with aplomb–such small, yet persistent details contribute to the indescribable pleasure of everyone here, there. everywhere.

chenin blanc, viognier, clams with housemade chorizo and hominy and refreshingly al dente potatoes, baked grits with house smoked bacon and cheddar, a succotash-esque side whose name i don’t remember but starts with M and was addictive beyond measure [edit: john helpfully reminds me it’s maque choux], swift demitasses of espresso and eager developments in brillet pineau des charentes, meletti anisette and amaro.

it lingers.

so yes, the film. i’ll get the obvious bits out: streep is nothing short of incredible. the shots of food elicit gasps and egg-wash-golden murmur-gasms. the husbands are amusing but totally secondary. the stomach-lurching arcs of drama lead gracefully into a rose-colored ending. and, apparently, julia child had an amazing taste in shoes.

but for some reason, i felt especially nonplussed, even indignant, about the julie powell narrative. it came across as extremely narcissistic, and well–yes–a bit disrespectful to the real julia child in her apparently worshipful tribute to her. and despite julie’s ambitious project and fervent followship (“i can’t let down my readers!”), the questions raised (even explicitly in the film) really didn’t have satisfactory answers:

what was the motivation–to make her feel better about her vapid-seeming life or to motivate and equip others with skills and morale? could she herself be her own role model instead of clinging to her projected perfection on a talented, though mortal, figure? if she were so poor, how did she manage to purchase so many ingredients in such a short span of time? was it really that easy to secure a book/media/tv/fame-in-fifteen in less than a year of a sweet, yet small, project? and something that perhaps is beside the point, but crucial nonetheless: perhaps she could weave a tale, but could julie really, actually cook?

though incidentally, i could completely empathize with the phone conversations between her and her mother regarding the blog. (hi mom, i know you’re reading this very post, and you probably will call me to laugh and say you’re just trying to look out for me. it’s cool :)) but having the constant pressure of a fun, perhaps flippant, very public project. having your mom be the only one who, depressingly but supportively, comments. being immediately concerned after misinterpreting a faux-dramatic posting. all that, very true.

i tried to find the seed of my restless annoyance at julie (or at least the one portrayed in the film). she took less than one year of tapping away at an invisible, yet quantifiable audience, whereas julia took major strides in surmounting the sex and class ceilings, had to deal with the thorns of teamwork and constant travel, and took eight painstaking years on a very uncertain project that she, somehow, managed to make certain. that julia is so much greater a respectable artist than julie is obvious, and the juxtaposed stories just made the contrast ever more so.

then again, am i just jealous that julie powell lucked out with all this success as a writer? perhaps. but it also gives dashful hope that doing the right things at the right time, no matter how precarious, can lead to events beyond expectation.

encouragingly, many changes afoot.

anyway, the point is, julia child was a kick-butt rogue and inspiration to all subsequent (and specifically american female) cooks and writers. i mean, just look at her:

and, in indulgent tribute, two drops in the sizzling saute of julia child footage.

fowl (“the CHICKEN SISTERS!”) and eggs (with not one, but two pan-flipping demonstrations)

bon appetit!

2 Responses to “>the writer’s plight in julie & julia”
  1. Keyse says:

    >i watched julia on public tv today, she was a fine dame

  2. Spicyflower says:

    >Well said. I was quite annoyed with the julie powell story. She came off to me as whiny and dependent. I don't see how she even related herself to julia at all. Especially when my admiration for Julia Child began when I was a young girl watching her program on public television with my grandmother. I guess good for Julie Powell for making herself feel better, and her life more worthwhile.By the way, Streep did a BANG UP job. Enough said.

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