Julie and Julia and Nigel and Pammy Faye

meryl

Oh the joys of going to the cinema – especially when driven by our loyalty to PDP! We thought we were attending a foodlover’s premier of a promising-looking film about cooking and cookbooks. The good reviews of the filmic biography of Julia Child, starring Meryl Streep, sucked us in.

What we ended up experiencing was a special foodies night for a sweetly entertaining flick that was indeed about Mrs Child, the author of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but also – its contemporary theme – about food blogging! Co-starring the very perky Amy Adams: Julie and Julia, the film by Nora Ephron pressed more buttons than we had anticipated…

Apparently the Dendy assumes foodies are easily stimulated. It wasn’t a premiere, so what did we get for our extra ten bucks?

cocktails

There were “free” tiny tipple cocktails (Bernini’d champagne) and on each seat a show bag of three samples including ten sea salted half macadamias, a teaspoon of lime and white pepper gianduja chocolate, half a teaspoon of vanilla salt, some Canberra Centre propaganda, and then three quarters of an hour of slightly naff food and cocktail demos. Naff though it was, it did feature Emmanuel the slowest “cocktail barista” ever to grace the stage, plus a non-committal but cliché-ridden master-sommelier-in-training. Nevertheless they did treat us to a very yummy soup-son the size of a twenty cent piece made from the vanilla salt cured salmon on a bed of mascapone cheese with horseradish. Soup-son? All the sophisticated French words were anglicized or malapropped by the Executive Chef, Neil Abrahams (vinegar-ette, acicity) throughout the event.

opening

The film starts with a lot of 1940s car sex. We were transfixed by the art director’s perfect reconstruction of late 1940s Paris, as the bored but larger-than-life (and seemingly always inebriated) Julia Child squeezed her way through narrow streets in a monstrous Buick Woody Wagon, and through classic French street markets with her engaging and endlessly diplomatic husband, Paul (Stanley Tucci). Then we were fast-forwarded to a flat in Queens in 2002, to meet an equally bored 29-year-old Julie Powell, a frustrated would-be novelist stuck in a dead-end job taking sympathy calls post 9/11. While she’s much sharper than her yuppy friends, she doesn’t know what to do with her itchy mind.

The one thing they both love is food. Julie remembers her mother’s first Julia Child boeuf bourguignon, while Julia overcomes the barriers of gender and gaucherie to become a Cordon Bleu chef. The French, she discovers, “eat French food everyday: Heaven!” As we follow Julia passionately demystifying French recipes, we watch Julie discovering her own foodie passions via a self-imposed blog challenge (“I could write a blog. I have thoughts!”). She sets out to blog her way through every recipe in Julia’s book in a year, 536 recipes in 365 days. Time and space are nicely compressed as Julie becomes Julia. Almost.

Between postings in Paris and Marseilles, then somewhere in Germany, and then somewhere in Norway, and ultimately back “home” in the USA, there were lots of “yum” food pix and sequences. Julia discovered a correspondence between “hot cock” and cannelloni, while Julia (stuck in Queens) discovered that the poached egg was “like melted cheese”. Hmmm. Both husbands survived the “you can’t have too much butter” mantra.

But it was cute. Julie found the courage to boil live lobsters; discovered she had fans who actually read her daily purge; finally mastered the art of deboning a chook; saved her marriage from her own obsessive egotism; got an interview in the NYT and subsequently got flooded with publishing offers. All of this inspired by the spirit of Julia. Apart from a slightly sooky offering-in-homage of a half-pound of butter in a Julia Childs memorial in the Smithsonian at the end of the film, this is a delightful tale of food and love and blogging. A combination made in heaven.

17 comments ↓

#1 Zoe on 12.10.09 at 8:15 pm

I’m looking forward to the movie. I’m not surprised there isn’t much about the blog in the movie, because the book doesn’t have much to say on the topic either.

It also doesn’t have much to say on the subject of the affair she was having while writing the blog, perhaps as that’s the subject of her latest book. Cleaving: A story of marriage, meat and obsession. Butchery and banging would have been a snappier title, I think ;)

#2 Dr Sister Outlaw on 12.10.09 at 9:11 pm

I spent tonight at the movies, and I LOVE THIS FILM. I was gonna write a whole post but now I can just chime in with what I really loved. Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking is close to my heart, as my son’s father has a cherished copy, and I have cooked about a third of the recipes in it. As a result, my signature dish is tarte l’onion, I can bake a tarte tatin that will make you cry (as Julia does in the movie) and have, on no less than three occasions, spent three whole days making her magnificent cassoulet.

The sequences in Paris took me straight back to my time
there in 2001, when I also arrived raw and gauche, without a word of French, and found my way into the city via food, learning French at market stalls. And when I got home, Julia helped my son’s father and I remember our time there.

The star of the movie is, of course, Julia, and the movie draws out her warmth, enthusiasm and almost accidental stardom, just as it so successfully portrays her great height, formidable nature and brain and hilariously lumpish awkwardness. The husbands of both women are unutterably gorgeous and made me and my female companions feel all funny and jealous (I’m almost happy to hear from Zoe that real life love was much, much more complicated).

I adored the movie for its interiors and market sequences, and especially for its careful and consistent butchering of the French language by the Americans (Julie calls boeuf ‘boof’ and there is a fab sequence where Julia is talking to a French teacher in English and is reminded to speak in French, at which point she says, with a laugh, ‘I thought I was addressing you in French’).

But, girls and boys, the nature of blogging is also brilliantly portrayed. Most of the best moments with the Julie character are when she gets excited about receiving comments on her blog, when her mum carpets her for doing something not real (blogging), when she gets presents from readers, when she gets hauled over the coals by her boss for blogging, when she deletes a post about a fight with her husband, because he’s asked her not to blog about it … all the decisions we all make when we put something up, all the negotiations around intimacy and exposure, and, best of all, the rewards of connection and friendship.

See it. It’s too long and, after a while, spends too little time on the food, but it’s a great story. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll make boeuf bourguignon before the week is out … see it!

#3 Dr Sista Outlaw on 12.10.09 at 9:13 pm

(excuse over italicisation, some problem I cannot fix)

#4 Zoe on 12.10.09 at 9:19 pm

Fixed, Sista. I think I have to go soon.

#5 Dr Sista Outlaw on 12.10.09 at 9:24 pm

This was one of those moments I hate that you live in Canberra and I live here!

#6 Zoe on 12.10.09 at 9:27 pm

Yep. And you know I’ll be going on a stupid French binge after I see it, for I am a simple creature and easily led.

#7 Lost Jawlensky discovered in Canberra | iconophilia on 13.10.09 at 7:34 am

[...] Wednesday night the Canberra audience for the premiere of the movie Julie & Julia were transfixed by the appearance of a rare three dimensional self portrait [...]

#8 Zoe on 13.10.09 at 9:48 am

Poor old Julie’s copped ten kinds of shit about the blog/book/film, as you can see from this article in Gourmet Magazine (I didn’t read the comments, but you can imagine).

Even worse is this Virginia Willis blog post – one of the most irritating pieces of food writing I’ve read this year. Note the disclaimer “THANKS SO MUCH TO EVERYONE FOR THEIR INTEREST, SUPPORT, AND COMMENTS, BUT THIS BLOG POST IS NOW SHUT DOWN FOR ADDITIONAL COMMENTS. MANY THANKS FOR READING AND I LOVE THE DIALOGUE, BUT WE ALL NEED TO MOVE ON. ;-) BEST VA”

#9 Pavlov's Cat on 13.10.09 at 2:00 pm

Zoe, it’s worth the price of the ticket for the onion scenes alone.

The Virginia Willis thing is intriguing — I can see exactly why you are irritated, but on the other hand I can see her point too. That tension between trained experts and non-trained non-experts is, interestingly, addressed in the movie. By the onion scenes, in fact.

I saw the movie (which I mainly adored, esp Their Meryl and the lovely Stanley Tucci) with a resolutely anti-blogging friend, and it seemed to me that Ephron was carefully pacifying the anti-blogging brigade at one point in her dialogue. Maybe she thought the movie’s target demographic would need pacifying, and who knows, maybe she was right. But that irritated the bejesus out of me.

#10 Dr Sista Outlaw on 13.10.09 at 7:33 pm

So it should, bloody hell … the onion scene made me laugh because to make Julia’s onion tart you need to mince 1 kg of onions and, as I frequently doubled the recipe, that meant I would mince 2kg of onions, which takes some doing, I tell you. That huge pile on her table! Alors!!

#11 Cristy on 14.10.09 at 9:29 am

Oh I really want to see this film! When to sneak out and who to do it with though…

Great review, BTW.

#12 Zoe on 14.10.09 at 1:20 pm

I’ll sneak out with you, Cristy.

#13 Cristy on 16.10.09 at 8:44 am

‘kay. Sounds like a good plan.

#14 emica on 25.10.09 at 12:03 am

I went with my Mum & we both loved the film. I didn’t think it was a minute too long, it looked gorgeous, but i do agree with the general sentiment that, up against such a character, and one played by the amazing Meryl Streep, poor Julie/ Amy Adams is a bit over shadowed.

I just read that Virginia Willis piece and crikey that really rubbed me up the wrong way! Irritating?! What boring writing. And so stilted. And really catty. And self serving.

I’m interested to read the follow up book, how about ‘butchery & betrayal’ :)

#15 Zoe on 26.10.09 at 1:22 pm

I didn’t think Julia was always pissed, just that her manner – like her physical appearance – was not firmly bolted into the middle of “normal”. I liked her not-rightness, and the depth of her relationships with women. OTOH, “Julie” didn’t have much to offer, did she? I think it would have been more interesting if the tensions with her husband were featured – as the tensions with her friends were – but perhaps that’s asking for too much. Would have rounded out her character a bit though.,

I enjoyed the film very much, not least because it was a little reward for looking after the kids all weekend while Owy went to the Australian Amateur Home Brewing Championships. Also, I want Julia’s kitchen with its nice high benches. Even at 5’11″ I find ordinary height kitchen benches pretty miserable.

#16 dogpossum on 18.11.09 at 3:52 pm

I enjoyed this film more than I thought I would. But I found Julie really irritating and not at all someone I’d like to meet. Unlike Julia, who I loved. And Stanley Tucci. MMMmmmmm, Stanley Tucci. Nom nom nom nom nom.

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