There was a really good article on cooking in the New York Times Magazine.
I link to it as a pretense so that I can discuss my mixed feelings on the new film Julie/Julia, dually based upon the lives of Julia Child and Julie Powell.
There are really three pieces of media at play here. There is the movie. Then there are the books that the movie is based on, My Life in France, by Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme (a ridiculous name, I might add), and Julie and Julia, by Julie Powell. When I heard the movie was coming out, I put the books on my list so that I could read them before the movie came out. Here’s what happened.
1. I read My Life in France…
…and discovered that Julia Child was indeed a wonderful and interesting person. Unfortunately, she had neither a wonderful nor interesting ghostwriter. Alex Prud’homme is her grandson, and one gets the feeling that he was chosen for the project for that reason, rather than his technical proficiency. As I was reading the book, I got the feeling that the story was struggling to break the surface; I could almost grasp what was hidden beneath the clunky writing. I found myself deciding to abandon the book almost every day that I would read it, only to give it “one more shot” the next day.
One saving grace is the many exerpts from letters between Julia and Paul Child, or between one of them and their many family friends. They were both prolific letter writers, and it is in those genuine sources that real personality comes through.**
2. I started Julie & Julia…
…and quickly discovered that with all the things I wanted to do with my time, reading prose by Julie Powell in the first person was not on the list. Although I know that there is no such thing as ethics on the internet, I really do feel bad offering an opinion about a book I didn’t finish.
But there’s a reason I didn’t finish it.
She is a little annoying, and after about 40 pages, there really wasn’t enough to hook me, nor was there any promise for unique insights, or really anything of value. I don’t know if I can recommend not reading it, but I certainly would not recommend it.
3. I found out that Julie and Julia was directed by Nora Ephron.
Which really just took all of my desire to see it away. I loved When Harry Met Sally but I honestly cannot think of another Ephron-related movie that I have enjoyed (and she didn’t even direct that one). And for all of you who believe that I hate her because she’s a woman (and I’m not just strawmanning, somebody actually told me that), one of the reasons that I hate her so much is because of her deeply shitty movie A League of Their Own. I believe that a female empowerment movie done badly is ultimately counterproductive.
So, I could not bring myself to actually see the movie.
Basically, at every step of this project, I have been underwhelmed. But I would like to hear from anyone that has seen it. Let me know what you think. And I would love to find someone to defend My Life in France.
**Surprisingly, (to me) almost everybody on Amazon.com disagrees with me about the quality of My Life in France. The vast majority of the reviews are 4 and 5 stars, and the only people who gave it 1 or 2 stars are complaining about Child’s Francophilia, her unapologetic carnivorous tendencies, or her political positions. Of the latter, I thought this gem, from Mr. BH, was precious:
I was disappointed that Ms. Child chose to insert political bias into the book and managed to insult many of her long-time fans. Why is that Liberals have to insert their biases into everything? The thing I found most offensive was her ridicule of American servicemen in Germany in the decade after the war. She looks down her considerable nose at a group of American servicemen she encounters in Germany in the early 1950s. They dared to reject the heavy German beers, showed little interest in learning the language, and declared the wives “conventional, incurious, and [most egregious of all] “conservative.” She points out that the men spoke with Southern accents, usually about sex and drink.
Here she was at this point in her 40s; and some of these same servicemen may have fought in the heinous war that was started by Germans, had family or friends who had been killed by Germans, and…heaven forbid….probably voted differently than she did.
UPDATE: My commenter has alerted me to my mistake with Nora Ephron/A League of Their Own. I realized that I was mistaking her for Penny Marshall, which is really unfair to Ephron because nobody should have to carry the sins of either Penny or Gary Marshall, although Ephron directed the Marshall-produced Bewitched.