If I were a movie critic, I'd rave about Julie and Julia, the movie. Meryl Streep and Amy Adams give excellent performances. It's a well-written script with solid technical work and direction. If you want an entertaining experience, go see it.
I went to see the movie for two reasons: food and Meryl Streep, and the latter did not disappoint. I am conflicted, however, about whether or not food came out a winner in the film. I was really hoping that people would leave the theater with an increased desire to cook real food, but I'm not sure that happened at all. For those of you not familiar with the film, it's a true story of two women, Julie Powell and Julia Child. Julie Powell is a secretary and blogger in 2002. Julia Child needs no introduction, but this film covers her life in France when she attends the Cordon Bleu and writes her first cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Julie spends one year in the movie cooking her way through that cookbook, which is 700+ pages and contains 500+ recipes.
It sounds good on paper (or a computer screen), but in the movie it looks really hard. Julie has more than one mental meltdown, and it seems that they seldom eat dinner before 10 p.m. That little fact right there will validate eating out for a lot of people. Yes, Julia Child made French cooking accessible for us servantless American cooks, but it is kind of nuts to attempt to cook something that complicated every night after you've been away at work all day. And it's not exactly healthy to eat such rich food every day. Julie complains about getting fat, and her husband is seen with a bottle of antacids more than once. Those recipes are for Saturday night dinner parties and Sunday night family dinners, not daily fare.
Good cooking and sensible eating is not that hard, people! Nor does it make you fat or give you indigestion or result in frequent mental anguish. The recipes I post on here are delicious, quick, simple, and thrifty. Real people don't spend three hours in the kitchen every day. So, I doubt that the movie has really made a difference in the status of food. Those of us who already love it will find the movie charming, and those who don't have time to cook will find validation. Sigh...
But the real story behind Julie Powell is the thing that I dislike. In the movie, we discover that Julia Child does not like the blog, but we never learn why. So, I did a bit of sleuthing around the Internet and found two different sources that said she didn't think that Julie really cared about cooking. Julia Child's editor at Knopf, Judith Jones, said she did not "respect" the blog. Jones said Julie "did not care one bit about cooking" and was just trying to cash in on Julia's famous name and book. (Another blogger spent a year living Oprah and got a book deal also, so it's not an uncommon idea.) I visited the old blog, and after reading a few posts, I agree that it doesn't sound like she really cares about cooking. It was just a shtick to get a book deal, and even though I'm not Julia Child, I'm disgusted, so I can only imagine how annoyed she must have been by the blog.
Amy Adams was far more likable than the real Julie Powell, who dropped F-bombs as often as eggs in a quiche. And the way she uses them, it definitely gives you the feeling that she doesn't care much about cooking. In one post, she says, "I was supposed to degrease the sauce, but f--- it." (Hey, Julie! Degreasing would really reduce the antacids your husband needs, and it would be less calories for you!) And she writes as much about watching television and getting drunk as she writes about cooking. No, I didn't read every last entry; it was just too painfully boring, whining, and uninspiring to continue.
On a positive note, Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking is number one on Amazon. I can only hope that people will actually use it once in a while.
This post is part of Fight Back Fridays. For more posts on real food, visit Food Renegade.