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Thursday, February 4, 2010

"Julie and Julia"... And Judd.

(Jayson has a tendency to take lots of pictures on planes. I was not aware he took this until after.)

Judd Apatow should have conceived the screenplay for, and directed, the movie "Julie and Julia." I say this, on a flight home from NY, having literally just closed the book after reading every last page. I say this because though I find Judd Apatow's movies most often hilarious, I often find them 45 minutes longer than they need to be. However, if Judd had adapted and written "Julie and Julia," the movie might have left me feeling much more like I do now...inspired, delighted, and joyful.

I purchased "Julie and Julia" (the book) before seeing the movie--one should almost always read the book before the movie, if possible, in my opinion. I started reading it on a short flight from Chicago to Kansas City in January. Unfortunately, I got sick on that trip, and J, my brother E, and I wound up watching a LOT of On Demand movies. I mean we're talking 5 or 6. One of which was "Julie and Julia." (Coincidentally, we also watched--and loved--Judd Apatow's "Funny People" on that same trip.) I did NOT enjoy the movie very much. For someone who loves food, loves cooking, loves viewing the incapacitation of an otherwise slightly-sane woman taking down by boning a duck, I was severely underwhelmed. Nothing personal, but I could not STAND Amy Adams' performance. I found the character (or person) Julie Powell to be insipid, annoying, whiney, and otherwise displeasing. In fact, the only things I LIKED about the movie, were the parts about Julia Child. If Meryl Streep had only made a biopic about Julia Child, I would have been much happier. (In truth, I actually LOVED the parts with Meryl and Stanley Tucci.)

I didn't return to the book for a few weeks, until this trip to NY. I figured it was my duty, now that I had started blogging about food, to read it and be ready to fight off the non-stop comparisons. About halfway through our flight to Albany, I realized I was falling in love with the writer. Part of this is because the movie does her absolutely no justice. None. They changed so many (in my opinion) crucial parts of the story that you almost have to hate the movie-version of her. In the book (I'm not giving anything away that you won't read in the first 10 pages) she is actually a "never-acted struggling actress" turned temp, and she comes by the project so much more organically than she does in the movie. The movie portrays her as a struggling writer who, hmmmm, just DECIDES she's going to cook every recipe in "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" in 365 days. In the book (or what I like to hope is real life) she basically stumbles onto this idea during a more than slight nervous breakdown in a bodega after a really crappy gynecologist visit. That sings to me so much more than thinking that a struggling writer who just wanted to write. I don't know why.

In addition, the book is just interspersed with letters from Julia Child's husband Paul. The movie does a side-by-side comparison of Julie/Julia, and it's hard to grasp Julie Powell very well. The book is almost a true memoir, riddled with cooking and recipes and David Strathairn. That is not to say I didn't find her whiny at times--she is, and would/did/has admitted it. So is Elizabeth Gilbert, so is almost every writer who has tackled a project this personal, or so it seems. She takes her amazing husband for granted a lot, and is judgmental, and is, well, insanely narcissistic. But she's also very lovable, and realizes that she's mean to her amazing husband and makes up for it, and realizes she's judgmental to her friends and supports them all at the end of the day.

I don't want to give away too much, in case people read or are reading the book, or haven't seen the movie yet. But the truth is simple, at least for me. Julie Powell stumbled upon so much more than how to cook french food during her true exploration over a 365 day period. She learned how to like herself, how to find something she loved doing, and consequently make money doing it. She learned to get out of her head, at least slightly, and to not mind it all so much.

She talks about sex. A lot. And she also learned to make a kick-ass mayonnaise by hand.

1 comment:

  1. Loved Funny People. Agree 100% on Amy Adams being unbearable. Love your post! Jeff just picked up "My life in France" at the library for me this morning!