Friday, March 05, 2010

Mastering the Art of American Whining

I’m probably the last female on the planet to see Julie and Julia.

First-run movies are, for the most part, out of the Linguini budget and anything even approaching a “chick flick” is certainly destined for the very bottom of the Netflix queue. However, Dirtman, in an obvious ploy to get on my good side, allowed this to rise to the top of the list; or maybe it was that it was the one movie I put on the list that depicted people familiar with indoor plumbing.

For the record, it was a good movie. Meryl Streep playing a beloved icon; lots of food shots; Paris and make-believe Parisians being all warm and inviting – what’s not to love? And that’s what I kept saying to myself while I was watching it, “I love this but…”

… you have to put up with that annoying, insipid side story about a morose 30-year-old who is in desperate need for some real problems in her life since, obviously, complaining is her hobby – even more so than cooking. (I apologize in advance to any morose 30-year-olds. But, I’m sorry: When Julie says that “Julia saved me,” I wanted to ask, “From what? TOTAL self-absorption?”)

Up against Julia Childs’ rich and varied life, Julie Powell is nothing but a spoiled, whining Gen-Xer (or whatever Gen she is part of – I sure lost track of which is which). That may not be the truth in reality, but Movie Julie deserves a good ol’ Cher slap on the face and a, “Snap out of it!”

Honestly, though – I really liked this movie.

I will admit to catching just a hint…a whiff…of condescension. Yes, that’s it: condescension. Perhaps it’s just me, but I sort of winced at the movies’ incredulity over the true love affair between Julia and her husband Paul. Almost as if director/writer/producer Nora Ephron were saying, “Isn’t this INCREDIBLE? Two middle-aged people without movie star looks, absolutely besotted with each other! What a hoot!”

I overlook it though, if only for all the nifty vintage eye candy.

And then, of course, there is Meryl Steep’s lovingly elegant performance as Julia Child. I’ve read critics who defend Amy Adams’ inane performance as Julie Powell, saying she didn’t stand a chance when juxtaposed with Streep’s experience. But, let’s face it, this isn’t Adams’ first time performing with Streep, though she faired considerably better the last time.

Stanley Tucci and Jane Lynch (Childs’ husband and sister, respectively) are always treats in every movie I’ve ever seen them in.

A movie completely on Julia Childs’ life would have satisfied even more. Ephron could have spared us Powell’s whiney grousing, paid her some sort of “reminder’s fee” for highlighting Childs’ career, and allowed us to revel more deeply in the story of a strong, vivacious, powerful, inspiring woman.


Perry said...

Totally agree with all... Julia's life could stand on its own.

I met Julia Child twice (PBS inner circle), and she was a lovely woman giving of herself and her time for a cause she obviously was truly passionate about.

And I could have watched her and Jacques Pepin together for weeks on end.

I hope that someday Meryl will be Julia in a true homage to Julia's life story.

It's amazing how that woman can channel a character so that you forget about Meryl-- and her playing of Julia was perfection. How did she manage to capture all the quirkiness of Julia without making her into a caricature?


Gwynne said...

I wasn't as articulate about why, but I loved the Julia part of the movie too, the other not so much.

Sisiggy said...

Perry: Ya know, I think part of Meryl Streep's ability to disappear into a character is the fact that she's not an in-your-face "celebrity." There's no denying she is accomplished but it really help when you don't have to get an actor's public persona out of your head before you can accept them as their character.

And you met her! How cool is that?!

Gwynne: I could go on and on about how much of an annoyance the Powell story was -- but it would take away from how much I loved the Julia parts.

Leslie Shelor said...

30 year old women should be morose; they have to live through the terrible 30s in order to get to the wonderful 40s and blissful 50s. I haven't seen the movie yet but have really been looking forward to it. Love your take on it; I have a feeling I'm going to agree.

Darkgarden said...

Sis played Julia in a movie once, back in the early 80's!!!