Does the world need another food blogger's take on Julie & Julia, the film adaptation of the book Julie and Julia, which was, of course, an adaption of the blog "The Julie/Julia Project"? Probably not, but as the one millionth food blogger to attend a free screening, here goes.
Overall, I found myself liking the film. I was pleasantly surprised by the movie, and in particular, Meryl Streep's performance. At times, it's hard to see past the cartoonish impression of Julia Child's peculiar mannerisms (a clip of Dan Aykroyd's spoof of Child on "Saturday Night Live" that actually appears in the film doesn't stray so far away from Streep's), but on the whole, she succeeds in turning the icon into a real person. Julia's relationship with her husband, Paul, and the scenes with her sister, another tall, gawky, and outspoken creature, are particularly humanizing.
The film shifts back and forth between the Julia story and the Julie Powell story, and it makes for an odd pairing.
The backdrop of Paris, its markets luminescent in the shining sun, is romantic and stunning. Long Island City: not so much. While the sole meuniere sizzles away in Paris, New York is, well, soulless. Where Paris is bright, here it is drab.
The Julia Child character is driven by a passion for food -- the shopping, the eating, the cooking -- which I think many gastronomes can and will identify with. But, while Julia brims with an adult confidence in her abilities, Julie is presented as a deflated, self-pitying, and seemingly helpless child. She's just not as likable as Julia Child, which ends up being a real disservice to the Julie Powell half of the story.
When reading the real Julie Powell blog more than five years ago, she seemed to be a much different person than the character portrayed here in the film. Reading her blog, the real Julie Powell came across as independent-minded, brash (if not sarcastic and occasionally even snarky), and really nothing like the image portrayed in the movie, which is that of a bruised flower. Self-doubting maybe, but not helpless.
The movie version of Powell calls herself a "bitch" and her friend agrees, but it just doesn't fit with the Amy Adams performance (or how it was scripted). With this scaled-down, made-for-the-movies Julie Powell, her triumph of completing her blogging project and getting published falls a little flat. It's also underwhelming compared to Julia's decade working against the odds to get her book published. You watch Julie, but you root for Julia.
Like many others have already asserted, the Julia Child portion of the film ends up the stronger part of the story and shows her life may even deserve its own exclusive biopic. And, the stronger her half gets, the more the Julie Powell half suffers from the comparison. Which is an irony since Julia Child was really only the muse to Powell's original blog.
P.S.: The real Julie Powell has taken a beating lately on the Internets. A good many food bloggers feel insulted by several of Powell's statements that appear to distance herself from blogs and bloggers.
For some of us who started food blogs (I count myself among them), Julie Powell was an inspiration. Here's someone who, despite a depressing, unrewarding job, found a way to use the blogging platform -- more or less dismissed at the time -- as a way to publish her own writing. At least, that's what I found inspirational. That she achieved the success of a book contract (and another, after that), is all the more impressive.
Good for her that she got a book deal (and licensed her story to a movie) so that blogging is no longer the only avenue for publishing her writing. She has moved on from the blogging platform and now can be paid to write books. Why begrudge her that?
However, what rubs is her disassociation from bloggers who may have come to the platform with similar motivations -- to express their passion for food through writing. Or, even just to connect with others who share their interests.
Her post-blogging vantage on the blogging medium is only made possible because of the fact that she has reached this incredible level of success. But, what if she never made it professionally? What if she was still stuck in that dead end job? She might even still be blogging today because that might have been the only way for her writing voice to be heard. And, I think that's what stings.