Julie And Julia — A Lovable Movie

It’s taken me long enough to finally go see Julie & Julia. I wanted to see it opening weekend, but sadly couldn’t. Meryl Streep? Amy Adams? Paris? Glorious food? I couldn’t have wanted to see a movie more.

I had read a number of reviews, and almost every reviewer said the same thing: LOVED Meryl Streep as Julia! The filming in France was gorgeous! But Amy Adams as Julie Powell? I’ll take a pass. I would have preferred the whole movie be Julia’s story.

I beg to differ.

I didn’t know anything about the real Julie Powell before watching the film, but Julie Powell as Amy Adams portrayed her was quite the sympathetic character. She was a blogger. (I am a blogger.) She loved to cook. (I love to cook.) She wanted to write, but was stuck in a hellish 8-5 office job. (Meet me, just six short years ago.) She had a tiny little kitchen and a limited budget. (Again, meet me, just six short years ago.) She was going on thirty and felt like she hadn’t really accomplished much in her life yet. (Ahem. I’m sounding like a broken record. But yes, I too, felt this way not long ago.)

I loved watching the story go back and forth between the two women from such different generations.

Julia Child felt compelled to write a cookbook on French cooking for “servantless American cooks.” She was raised in an era where just about everyone in the middle class had servants of one sort or another. Think back to all those old television shows with housekeepers or cooks popping in and out of the episodes, and you’ll know I’m right. In Julie Powell’s world — our world — there are no servants. No housekeepers or cooks. There’s nobody here but us.

Julia wrote that cookbook to make French cuisine accessible to middle class Americans who didn’t have professionally trained cooks preparing their food. She wrote it for us.

She wrote it for women like Julie Powell.

And she wrote it for the novice. Her goal was to include enough detailed instruction that even someone who’d never prepared food this way before would be able to follow the instructions and make exquisitely perfect meals.

Across generational lines, across time and space, Julie Powell learned from Julia as best she could. She prepared Julia’s recipes day after day in an effort to put some meaning, some soul, some fun, into the monotony of her empty life.

All in all, I loved both stories. I loved Paris in the 50s. The costumes and the scenery were just enchanting. I loved watching Meryl Streep bring the Francophile Julia to life. But I also loved watching Julie in her shabby little sit-and-spin kitchen, stretching herself, confronting her fears, and becoming a better person for her struggles.

In the quiet of my home, mulling the movie over in my mind, I’m still as excited about the idea of seeing it again as I was about seeing it the first time. That says a lot!

A Word of Caution

Avoid the Julie/Julia Project blog. Don’t go read it. Don’t find out what the real Julie Powell was like — at least not until you’ve seen the movie.

When my friend and I left the theater, she said she LOVED every second of the movie except for one part. She was sad to learn that Julia Child didn’t like Julie Powell’s blog. In the movie, the news is heartbreaking to Julie, and the audience is left wondering why? Why didn’t Julia like Julie’s blog?

A quick look at Julie’s blog will give you all the answers you need. Sure, she drops foul language left and right, but she also seems to care more about the television shows she’s watching while she cooks or how drunk she can get than she does about the actual food. In one post, she says, “I was supposed to degrease the sauce, but f— it.” No wonder Julia Child said Julie didn’t “seem very serious” about it. After all, Julia had spent years of her life researching and writing utterly fail-proof recipes. And Julie waltzes in, disregards the directions, and whines about her failures on her blog.


Of course, everyone has a right to their off days, so perhaps I’m being too harsh. Nevertheless, Amy Adam’s Julie is so approachable and adorable. I’d much rather stick to that story.

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Comments

  1. says

    Don’t read the book, either.

    Based on what I’ve heard from others who saw the movie, this seems to be true the majority of the time:

    – If they hadn’t yet read the book, “Julie & Julia”, and/or didn’t know much about Julie Powell’s blog, they tended to like the Julie Powell storyline.

    – If they HAD read the book and/or the blog, they tended not to like the Julie Powell storyline.

    I for one, read the book, and had perused her blog when the book came out a few years ago. Maybe this is why I disliked the Julie Powell story so much. If I hadn’t read her stuff, I probably would have liked her, too, because Amy Adams was so sweet and so likable.

    The book (like the blog) is, as food critic, Russ Parsons wrote, “one endless whine”. If you read my post, you can find out WHY Julia Child said she didn’t think Julie Powell was serious — Parsons was the one who took the blog (he printed it out) to Julia Child in her retirement home.

    Julia said that she worked very hard on those recipes — for 8 years. She said (paraphrasing) she tested and retested them so that anyone could make them — and that if Julie Powell couldn’t get them to come out, she must not be a very serious cook.

    http://www.cheeseslave.com/2009/08/17/movie-review-julie-julia/

    After I posted my review last week, I got this very interesting comment from Holly at Sustainable Suppers:

    “I also took umbrage with their portrayal of Jones, who deserves immense respect for, if nothing else, insisting on publishing The Diary of Anne Frank. The movie pretends that a reporter set up the dinner between Jones and Powell and that the

  2. says

    I loved that movie, too, Kristin, and not only the Julia side of it. I thought it was perfectly balanced between the two — one or the other would not have been enough, nor polished to a glittering whole by the other.
    Love your blog, too.
    Sharon
    .-= sharon

  3. says

    I loved your review. I haven’t seen the movie yet. I just finished the book, thinking it would be a good thing to do before seeing the movie. Half way through the book, I had to call the friend who loaned it to me to ask: Why do I feel compelled to slap this woman (Julie Powell)? She’s a brat and a whiner. Or maybe it’s just me. I am cranky and 8 months pregnant…
    My friend assured me she felt the same way, but that the movie was excellent, especially the Meryl Streep parts.
    If I got anything out of slogging through Julie/Julia (the book), it’s a renewed interest in Julia Child and her dedication to her life’s work.
    Love your blog! Keep up the good work!
    .-= Amanda

  4. says

    LOL!!! Amanda, your comment made me literally laugh out loud. (Not just using the LOL — I really did LOL!).

    “Why do I feel compelled to slap this woman (Julie Powell)? She

  5. says

    Thats a good point about reading the book vs not reading the book and it’s impact on opinions of the movie. I had never heard of Julie Powell until the movie, and liked it. Could have used more Julia, but liked it regardless.
    .-= dailydiner

  6. says

    I agree with you Kristen in the sense that I liked Julie Powell’s story because I could relate to it more. Not in the same way Kristen can (I’m a 22 year old male college student) but in the fact that I am not the most experienced cook and preparing most recipes (even simple ones) will “stretch me, make me confront my fears and get me out of my comfort zone.” But what Julie and I have in common is our desire to make delicious, real food while at the same time not having the skills to match.

    Ann, thanks for the perspective about Julie’s storyline in regards to reading her blog. I liked Julie’s character in the movie, so I am going to stick with that and avoid the blog :)
    .-= Morgan Polotan

  7. says

    I loved this post, Kristen, and also your comment Ann Marie!

    I think Nora Ephron’s ability to make heartwarming, funny and witty movies is just extraordinary, and I really enjoyed the movie. Yeah, I read the Julie and Julia book and had a strong feeling Julie Powell wasn’t much of a cook, or all that passionate about food (I wasn’t sure why I read it till the end either).

    One sentence I’d surely change in the movie: Saying that cooking “saved” Julie Powell’s life is so dramatically overblown and teenage simplistic that the sentence still scrapes my ears! This is a healthy, happily married woman, who was never in any immediate danger. There are real problems in this world, and not landing a book contract in your twenties is hardly a tragedy she needed saving from.
    .-= Dr Ayala

  8. says

    I started reading the book and am greatly looking forward to the movie. I MUST agree, the little “JC” diary tidbits were such a tease. I wanted so much more. I guess I should just go buy JC’s biography! Thanks for the fair review of the movie!
    .-= Morta Di Fame

    • Ken in SC says

      Morta, definitely read Julia’s “My Life in France”; wonderful story about how JC got her start and fell in love with Paris and food. You’ll fall in love with Julia all over again.

  9. says

    Enjoyed your review! I haven’t seen the movie yet and yours is the first review I’ve taken the time to read through. Great advice and I enjoyed all the comments. I don’t know the blog nor have I read the book. I’m looking forward to enjoying the movie with my current knowledge and seek out more later.
    .-= Lori

  10. Brennan says

    I saw the movie, had not read Julie’s book or blog, and I certainly wished immensely that they had completely axed the Julie storyline (nothing personal against Amy Adams).

    It was like going from Heaven–Julia Child played by Meryl Streep in Paris and French cooking to Purgatory–a fairly undramatic storyline about someone in Queens who can’t cook. Dull.

    I am reading “My Life in France” by Julia Child and would recommend it to all.

    • leporello says

      Very late into this, I only saw the film last night, having had to wait for my DVD copy to arrive in Italy for 6 months. I remember Julia Child with great fondness from my childhood, and upon finishing her simple but forthright book “My Life In France”, ordered the film and reacquainted myself with the few clips available on YouTube.

      In short, having known nothing about the Julie book or blog, I found that story petered out from any interest level, apart from kute acting by Amy, which deserves no more attention than a spot as a sub-plot in an old “Fraser” or “Friends” episode.

      I am not surprised that Mrs. Child didn’t like Ms Powell’s blog (based both on last night’s film and checking the blog this morning);I certainly didn’t. I am sure that she would have turned over in her grave for the cheap cutting through her fine autobiography, let alone the pastiche of her person itself, and of her masterpiece cookbook. Ms Streep got right into the part like a stand up mimic (Rory Bremner might have equalled the acting) and failed to convey either the honesty and directness in her model, rather portraying a Miss Piggy, flouncing about the film, swooping and rolling her eyes at almost every turn. Voice was nearly right, sadly what was conveyed wasn’t.

      Just an opinion in favour of the real Julia Child, not the figment of Ms Powell’s, and Ms Streep’s imagination. Do read My Life In France and Mastering the Art of French Cooking, if you haven’t already.

  11. Heather says

    I just finished the movie Julie & Julia, and decided to hop on the Google-machine and find the real, original blog.

    I really wish I hadn’t. How utterly dissappointing. Hopefully I can revert back to my love of the movie version and forget I ever wasted any of my time on the “real” story in the blog.

    I find it disheartening to realize that because of this trashy blog, Julie Powell made a name for herself while riding the coat-tails of the magnificant Julia Childs. Amy Adams portrayed Julie Powell as a loveable 30-something, using cooking to find her way, and push herself to new boundaries. The real Julie Powell is a potty-mouthed whiner who lacks talent & originality.

    Julia Childs will remain in my heart as a pioneer of French cooking, a visionary, and an absolute treasure. Julie Powell will hopefully lose her lustre quickly and revert back to a miserable, talentless housewife, drowning her pathetic sorrows in her booze and take out pizza.

    • Haniet says

      Thanks Heather for saying whatever was in my mind! I couldn’t have said it so well.
      I didn’t like the movie because I felt it was a disrespect to put Julia Child in the same movie as this person who calls herself a “Foul-mouthed Hystric” and that she is!
      I listened to ‘My life in France’ audio book right after watching the movie and I made a mistake of listening to Julie Powell’s book and was even more disappointed.
      Meryl Streep did an excellent job to portray Julia Child and I think it was a disgrace to put names such as Julia Child, Meryl Streep, Amy Admas in the same sentence, let alone in the same movie along with Julie Powell!
      Julia Child worked very hard all her life and accomplished a lot in her 92 yrs. Meryl Streep is another example of a person who has worked so hard and has to be respected.
      I just don’t get it that how some people like Julie Powell’s book can even be published and then considered to be made into a movie. Why couldn’t Hollywood just make a movie about Julia Child’s life and keep her legacy for generations to come? My 10 yr old daughter loved the movie but I regretted letting her watch and I explained to her that Julia Child’s example is worth following not Julie Powell.
      I’m sorry if I am expressing my opinions so strongly but I had to defend Julia!
      p.s. I also loved Amanda’s comment about wanting to slap Julie powell!! :)

  12. Wally says

    I Just watched the movie.
    At the end I had to ask “Is that it?” There had to be more. She must have gone to Julia and worked things out. So I went looking. I had to find out why Julia disliked Julie. Google led me to you, You-Tube, and the real Julie Powell. Although I didn’t read the book and have to judge it from the blog, this is the only time the movie is better than the book. IMO

  13. mamajj says

    OK, i have not seen the movie — but i HAVE read the book, and feel the need to defend Julie after reading all of these posts! i absolutely *loved* the book – couldn’t put it down. i loved julie’s flippancy and irreverence and honesty and contemporary edge. she felt very real to me. plus, the book was really well-written (the story could be the most amazing of all time, but if it’s not written well – forget it). and yes, i love food, love to cook, and love to read. actually, the person i found the most disappointing was julia. really, i was crushed by her final, real-life cameo in the book. (how could she?? was my reaction in the moment). so, i do not discourage any of you from reading the book. but, i must admit i am feeling a bit apprehensive about seeing the movie now… although, i thought i would like it before, and probably still will. but, what if the movie doesn’t do julie justice?? based on these comments, sounds like it doesn’t…

  14. says

    I guess the order of what’s read or seen might make a difference on how this whole thing is perceived. Here’s mine:

    – grew up being vaguely aware of my mother watching Julia Child on PBS
    – started learning to cook as a child, have become rather adept at it, if I say so myself
    – saw the movie the day it came out mainly because of my admiration of Meryl Streep
    – ordered “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” online that same evening
    – read “My Life In France”
    – read “Julie and Julia”
    – thoroughly enjoying cooking the recipes myself

    I am now a complete fan of the whole batch and think that I understand something about Julia Child’s initial reaction to Julie Powell’s blog. Having spent years perfecting recipes for even amateur cooks, I think it’s easy to see how Ms. Child would have thought Julie Powell insincere. Particularly with the colorful language she uses.

    BUT, and this is a large ‘but’, I believe that had Julia Child lived to see the resultant fans of hers that came about ultimately as a result of Julie Powell’s blog and book, and then the movie, she certainly would have been delighted. How could she not have appreciated new admirers who love her work? Even Judith Jones herself, in her own blog, agrees with that sentiment.

    Dismiss Julie Powell’s blog as insincere or opportunist if you must, but you have to admit that legions of fans of Julia Child were created as a result of it. And THAT would have made Julia Child happy.
    .-= Mark Sandlin´s last blog post …Rumored Mistress Breaks Her Silence =-.

  15. Norell says

    I beg to differ with your’s and the poor departed Ms Child’s opinion of Julie Powell’s blog. I love the fact that she swore and cried and got drunk and messed up her recipes. It shows that she was a real, flawed human being, just as we all are, which makes her easy to relate to…. isn’t that the point of a blog?

  16. Mason says

    Ironically that “real, flawed human being” recently published a new book “Cleaving” in which she explicitly detailed a kinky sexual affair with a butcher while still married to her husband. Which is not a crack against you, Norell, but shows that most of the posters here had good instincts in their response to her writing.

    For a review see: http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2009/12/whats_wrong_with_julie_powells.html

    Self-absorbed and trashy is how she comes across.

  17. Julia says

    I received the book last year as a gift as my friend thought for sure it would be right up my alley…same name, love to cook and love to read, etc. I couldn’t even finish it I was so bored and had no patience for her character in the book. Don’t know but that may have been the first time I’ve ever put down a book halfway thru reading it and then donated it!
    I’ve heard the movie is good and will eventually get around to seeing it but I am not compelled to even check out her blog not after the fodder of her book.

  18. SusanWozniak says

    I just watched the movie on dvd last night (25 February 2010). I was impressed with Meryl’s flawless ear and her ability to capture Julia’s eccentric voice. I felt that the Julia (I did run into her twice, going about her regular life as I went about mine) came out a little more exuberant and crude than the Julia we all knew from television. Before viewing the movie, I imagined that Stanley Tucci would be dapper and sophisticated as Paul Child and he was. I felt the photography to make relatively tall (5’6″) Meryl look like six-foot plus Julia was a tich over done.

    I am an always aspiring writer and have been since before Julie Powell was born. I read the last edition of the Julie/Julia project just before writing this, the one in which Powell eulogizes Child. I thought the writing pedestrian.

    I was working at Williams-Sonoma (not a job I would recommend) when Julia died. For months, people came in and talked about her. So many had had brief encounters of the . . . perhaps, not the first kind, which would have involved dining with her . . . but of a close kind, in which they experienced her as a person. Yes, the store is located in Massachusetts, not far from her long time home in Cambridge, but I suspect that there are people all over the United States, who love food and who aspired to be the best they could be in the kitchen, who had Julia stories. While I do not think that Paul actually said to his wife that her book would change the lives of millions, her book did just that.

  19. Shay says

    I understand why Julia was offended, and I get why Julie was portrayed differently in the movie…however, I do think the real Julie was probably relieving stress more than anything by doing the blog. I certainly don’t think Julia was her idol and if she were, she’d have had more respect for the art of cooking. But then again, the real Julie is just that, real. A lot of people have personalities we don’t agree with. What we see on the big screen is a far cry from reality. In any case, Julia did not owe Julie anything. She certainly didn’t owe Julie a thank you for writing a blog.

  20. S. Smith says

    For one reason I am grateful to Julie Powell. If she had not written her blog and book we would not have the wonderful (the Julia parts anyway) movie Julie & Julia, which should have been called Julia & Julie. The resurgence of interest in Ms. Child’s life has me spending an hour in the produce section of my grocery store and stopping the film ten minutes in to make myself something yummy to eat. I HATED the book, haven’t read the blog, have no intention of reading the blog, and with my first paycheck will purchase Masting the Art of French Cooking, Volume 2. I already have volume 1, The French Chef Cookbook I inherited from my mother, and recommend Judith Jones’s books.

  21. Robii says

    My husband was selected to preview and be surveyed about the clip on the Julie/Julia movie. I watched over his shoulder and found the movie to be one that I would not put money out to see. He concurred. My mother in law saw the movie recently and raved so I figured I would watch it. I blubbered through the whole thing, identifying with the life and struggles of Julie. Great movie that inspired me to take a different approach to cooking and the current struggles of unemployment in my life. Took a peak at the Julie Powell blog and decided I did not want to ruin my visions from the movie. Thanks for the heads up not to view the blogs or read the book. Your blog was helpful.

  22. anodien says

    I think that Julie Powell was greatly misunderstood. I just watched the movie tonight and took a look around the net to find out why Julia reacted in a negative way. Having read this post, I have to say that Julie never said she wanted to become a cook/chef or anything. The whole purpose of her blog was clearly a psychological boost/help to finally have a purpose. A goal that she could reach. Be it cooking all of Julia’s recipes or it might as well have been anything else. So for me, it was a bit of a downer to find out that Julia actually never met Julie. We have to bear in mind that they come from two entirely different worlds! Julia comes from decades ago and is a more refined and classic type of woman whereas Julie is an everyday girl/woman so where’s the harm in that? Were I Julia I would be quite complimented if my book was used by someone in a way that helped them overcome a difficult phase in their life. Anyways, that’s just my opinion…

    • Elva says

      I have to say that I absolutely loooooooved the movie.. I was inspired by both stories.. The movie was perfectly payed out. AND I too was disappointed to learn that Julia disliked the blog BUT after reading a bit further and actually reading parts of the blog I can Maybe understand as to why Julia coming from the times she comes from could be disappointed. She did not say that Julie is a horrible person she simply stated that she was not serious, you must take into account the effort and strife Julia Child put into her cooking career, Maybe she felt by reading that blog that it is a mockery in some way. NOW I definitely can sympathize with Julie Powells and am inspired by her efforts to overcome that difficult phase in her life by taking on this grand endeavor, And in some way I feel like Julie did pay a bit of tribute to Julia Child But I think that Julie did it for herself not only to pay tribute to this amazing woman, where as Julia did it for not only herself but for the world. So I can see both sides and I still think both women are wonderful and did a wonderful thing each in their own way. =)

  23. meg says

    I never read the book or the blog , but the movie when i heard it was out i quickly wanted to see it / In the end i found the movie to be cute and intresting, but as many others before have said and asked an found out why Julia didnt care for Julie si because of Julie’s intrest in being a cook like juila was . My thought about the blog, well its a blog nothign is perfect int his world and were are far from it. I have to say though i understand where juila is coming from but i also get julie’s feelings too in the end a story is a story to read it is a choice we all will make judgement is made and facts are placed. .

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