I finally saw Julie and Julia this weekend, which I enjoyed, yet triggered the inevitable book vs. movie comparisons for me. I loved Julie Powell’s book; probably no surprise, since I relate well to the experience of a professionally frustrated administrative assistant who is looking for purpose and fulfillment as we clear the scary hour of turning 30. To me it was quite resonant.
There is a scene during what Movie Julie calls her “Cobb lunch” which perfectly evokes this for me: I (thank goodness) do not have friends who sit and bemoan their terrible assistants in front of me, but I’d also say that I found some part of Julie’s disconnection from that lunch among her professional friends uncomfortably true. So for that scene, at least, I thought that relating the experience and perspective of Julie Powell’s character was made compelling. Unfortunately, I feel like she otherwise got the short shrift.
Don’t get me wrong: when you have the force of nature known as “Meryl Streep playing Julia Child”, it is going to be difficult to pay attention to much else, unless you are led to by a story whose importance is given proper weight. And certainly, without Julia Child then Julie Powell may have ended up in a very different place. But the danger in having Nora Ephron tackle a story that was really about a frustrated, talented, and complex Gen X character (slackers, unite!) was that Powell’s narrative could be –and, I think, WAS–reduced to: look at this complaining woman who just wants to be able to say she has a better job, and what exactly is her PROBLEM?? I’d say that wanting to feel more useful in your professional life, and that your creative talents are actually appreciated and being used is not a whiny proposition (but, and this should be obvious, I am biased on this one!) All in all, I felt like if the same attention had been paid to developing or revealing more about the Julie Powell of her book as there was to reveling in the lusty Parisian wonders of the Childs’ marriage, then the film as a whole would have worked better.
Was Streep marvelous? Do birds fly? I loved — and found myself inspired, as well — by Julia Child as presented in this film; Stanley Tucci was delightful, and the obvious enthusiasm shown towards food throughout presented a delicious tableau that made me want, of all the delectable foodstuffs shown, a fresh bruschetta, STAT.
I hate to say this, because I enjoy Amy Adams, generally, but part of my disappointment in Powell’s characterization probably had to do with casting. Julie Powell is a snarky, opinionated, smart, strong and funny presence (check out youtube). Adams appeared a bit too soft spoken and mousy to really drive this story–and this is partly a shame because, as I’ve been complaining for awhile, were it not for Powell’s memoir, most likely we wouldn’t be toasting Julia Child or Meryl Streep, legends both, right now. (Not that they aren’t deserving.)
Altogether, though, I was happy to finally see this since the book was a favorite of mine when it was first published. Bon Appetit!!