Friday, August 7, 2009

Laughing with Strangers: Julie & Julia

I've been anxiously awaiting the release of Meryl Streep's new film, Julie & Julia, and today was the day. I'm not going to spoil anything specific here, by the way. If you're looking forward to seeing the film? You absolutely should be. It was delightful.

I've always been one of those people who is comfortable going to the movies by myself. Although my husband is incredibly patient, and would gladly sit through a film aimed at a female audience, I generally only ask him to do that for movies we rent on DVD. That way he may find himself mired in a Chick Flick, but at least we can pause at will.

Most of my friends were at work, and I had this morning free. So I got up, showered, dressed and took myself to the movies. Frankly, I don't like to see sad movies by myself. It isn't as much fun to sit sniffling by ones self in the dark, but laughing with strangers is a wonderful experience. I was far from the only person in the theater there in my own company. Evidently this movie inspired a lot of people, both men and women, to take themselves to the movies on a Friday morning.

It's a really delightful film, although the half featuring Meryl Streep as Julia Child is by far the more interesting. Amy Adams tries like mad, and heaven knows she's a very endearing actor, but her character, Julie Powell, just isn't a riveting person. She's a bit of a lovable loser, actually. Unfortunately the modern-day story is chock full of stereotypes, catty friends, marriages challenged by a woman having an ambition not centered on her relationship, a goodly heaping of misplaced self-doubt and what I suspect was entirely manufactured drama.

Most of the story in 2002 is based on Julie Powell's own story, which makes it a pity that it isn't more interesting. It's not boring, but I did find myself impatient to get back to the 1950s, France and elsewhere with Julia Child.

By the way, I think a lot of people wait for DVDs to come out thinking it will be much less expensive. My 10:30 a.m. showing cost $6.00s and I readily admit I simply smuggled in a bottle of water with me.

Make sure to eat before you go though, or you'll be hungry enough to eat your own shoe by the end of it.

One note on the (again, I suspect) manufactured drama: Although Powell's husband is incredibly supportive, and absolutely long suffering, the movie creates a situation that did not actually reflect well on him. Had he voiced his concerns at any other point, because they are entirely valid, I probably would have been cheering him on. However, the movie has it that he chooses the worst moment possible, in the very recent aftermath of what is an actual disappointment of a nearly crushing nature.

That's one of the problems with Chick Flicks, and this one was written (and primarily written well) by Nora Ephron. They might set out to make women feel empowered, but the situation in this film just made me feel weary.

It is entirely possible for women to accomplish much without turning into selfish hell beasts. Perhaps Powell didn't find it to be so, but I've read some of what she wrote. She's a very capable, talented writer, and I suspect an incredible cook. I had a hard time believing that she so nearly folded, but I also had a much harder time believing that her husband chose that particular moment to withdraw his support.

In other words, too often Chick Flicks accidentally make men look far more callous than most of them are. The counter-balance is that Julia Child's husband (played by Stanley Tucci) is wonderful from start to finish.


Jo said...

That's amazing. Your review of the movie is almost identical to one of the newspapers here in Vancouver. The Julia part was wonderful, but the Julie part ... not so much. They also said we would be hungry after viewing the movie. I think I am going to take myself to see this movie on the weekend. I love Julia Child and I adore Meryl Streep. Do you see another Oscar on the horizon for her, perhaps?

(P.S. I think it's so amazing that you have been to Vancouver. Most people haven't, and they have no idea what a beautiful city and location it is...)

Jo said...

By the way, you have a fabulous blog, but it's sometimes difficult to post comments here. :-)

Land of shimp said...

I do think Meryl Streep will at least be nominated, as well she should be, Jo. What happens is pretty amazing, yes at first you're caught up in "Wow, Meryl Streep nailed Julia Child's voice!" That much parodied, nearly iconic voice. As the movie goes on, I found myself forgetting entirely that Julia Child's voice (as done by Meryl Streep) was in anyway remarkable. I was telling my husband that Streep turned what is so often used as the stuff of caricature into simply an aspect of the person.

I also really felt for Amy Adams, trying to act in her own storyline, against what is a powerhouse performance. It truly isn't Adams fault, she brings Powell to life but she is a little too put out with her life. It may not be fabulous, but she's already got what most would consider a decent life. Even the job that I think we're supposed to feel is just soul-sucking is a not bad sort of job, the kind a lot of people work in their twenties and early thirties.

I think Nora Ephron really probably is responsible for the rather weak 2002 half not coming off as well. Powell grouses a lot in the face of not much adversity, and whereas there are funny scenes involving this, I couldn't help but think, "Come on, buck up. It's just not that bad."

I'm aiming the main criticism not at Powell, but at Ephron . I got a very different sense from the parts of her saga that I read, the real Powell I suspect has more pluck, for lack of a better term.

Streep rose above doing the voice, and far exceeds the level of caricature, but nearly everyone in the modern day story is practically a cartoon. It's used for comedy, and it is very funny in parts, truly, laugh aloud.

But I walked away not feeling much for the depiction of Powell, and cringing like mad on behalf of any of Powell's real life friends and family. I'm really hoping that was so wildly fictionalized that no one in her actual life might see themselves in any of the depictions.

Let me know what you think of it, if you would, Jo. I'd love to know. Really, half of it is one of the best films I've seen in a while. That's hilarious that I echoed the Vancouver critic.

We adored Vancouver, and plan on going back. You live in just one of the most wonderful places I've ever seen. We were there during an Emily Carr exhibit at the Art Gallery, by the way, which I adored also.

If you have a moment, if you could let me know what is difficult about posting a comment, I'll do my very best to fix it. I already took the word verification off, and would happily hone it in any other way.

Since I reply to comments here also, what I get is the exact same format I get over on your blog, so I'm stumped. Is that not what shows up for others?

And...just when I tried to post, Google came back at me saying my request could not be processed, and to try again. I wonder if it is server overload. Hmmm. I'll see what I can do.

Jo said...

The way you have your comments set up is one that everyone has difficulty with on their blogs as well. It defaults to "your request could not be processed".

The best way to set up your comments box is to go into Comment Form Placement in your settings and change it to "Full page" instead of "Embedded below window".

Everyone who has it set to "Embedded below window" has problems with their commenters. It's a glitch with Blogger, and one I wish they would fix.


Land of shimp said...

Thank you, Jo. I appreciate the help, and changed the setting, hopefully that will clear up the problem!

Jo said...

YAY!!! It worked...!!!

I don't always have time to respond to people who comment on my blog, but I always appreciate your visits, and your wonderful comments. And you definitely have one of the better blogs out there... :-)

I was shocked when you told me about the man who woke you up from the fire!!

There are strange things under Heaven and Earth.

Land of shimp said...

I'm so glad it worked, and thank you so much for the words of encouragement! I'm very fond of your blog, I'm sure you can tell that by how often (and jeez, how much!) I comment.

I always feel a little peculiar about telling people about that fire, or rather, I feel odd about telling people why I woke up. I was twelve, and the fire was concentrated in a mattress down the hall from me, in a very large house. I called the fire department after hanging out the window to get some air.

As an adult I can rationalize that and say that my sleeping brain processed the fact that I was surrounded by smoke, and manufactured a voice telling me specifically that the house was on fire, and I had to get up. Who knows, maybe that is the truth of the matter.

Still, what I find strange is that if that's the case? My sleeping brain manufactured a very authoritarian voice that had to try several times. The firemen even told me I was very lucky, since a lot of people don't wake up in those circumstances.

At the time I only told my dad that I'd heard a man telling me to get up, repeatedly, and that half the reason I did wake up was that I realized it wasn't his voice, and that frightened me. I thought there was a stranger in the room.

My dad had been in DC for work, and I was in Pennsylvania. When I told him the story, he told me several ghost stories he remembered from being in Ireland, letting me know that he was open to the possibility of ghosts, etc.

He died three years after that, and it wasn't until I was an adult that I realized that my dad responding with his own stories of ghosts was his way of telling me that he believed me, and that sometimes there were things beyond our understanding.

I'll never know exactly what that was. Whatever it was, my brain processing stimulus into a message I could understand, and would obey, or something else, my goodness, I was lucky either way.

Jo said...

It's a wonderful story! I am a bit of a skeptic, but more and more I am beginning to think there are things we will never quite be able to understand, even scientifically.

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