Look: I am eager to learn stuff I don't know--which requires actively courting and posting smart disagreement.

But as you will understand, I don't like to post things that mischaracterize and are aimed to mislead.

-- Brad Delong

Copyright Notice

Everything that appears on this blog is the copyrighted property of somebody. Often, but not always, that somebody is me. For things that are not mine, I either have obtained permission, or claim fair use. Feel free to quote me, but attribute, please. My photos and poetry are dear to my heart, and may not be used without permission. Ditto, my other intellectual property, such as charts and graphs. I'm probably willing to share. Let's talk. Violators will be damned for all eternity to the circle of hell populated by Rosanne Barr, Mrs Miller [look her up], and trombonists who are unable play in tune. You cannot possibly imagine the agony. If you have a question, email me: jazzbumpa@gmail.com. I'll answer when I feel like it. Cheers!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Movie Blogging - Julie and Julia

Yesterday, my lovely wife and I saw this movie. She read the book a couple of years ago, before it was quite so popular, and I am reading it now. This movie evidently falls into the category of "chick-flick*" so I'm a bit conflicted about admitting how much I liked it, which was rather a lot. I'm also enjoying the book, but that is, so to speak, another story.

The movie intertwines Julie Powell's novel of the same name with Julia Child's "My Life in France." The J&J book occasionally refers to passages or employs redone, fictionalized scenes (it's not clear which) from MLiF, but to nowhere near the extent that the movie does. To make room in the movie, much of the print J&J wound up on the cutting room floor - a good deal of it involving excess vodka consumption and Julie's commiseration with her hard-drinking, promiscuous friends. Nora Ephron's screenplay demonstrates that this was a wise choice.

I'm not familiar with MLiF. The print J&J, which is a thoroughly enjoyable ride so far, is a strange sort of a novel - more of a chronicle, actually. Both it, and the derived movie, are pretty thin on plot. Julie Powell cooks and blogs her way though Julia Child's tome, MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING, on an arbitrary, self-imposed deadline: 524 recipes in 365 days. The movie includes an interwoven story of how Julia Child came to write MTAFC, and her odyssey to get it published. The unifying concept of the movie is the resonance between these two threads. In Ephron's hands, it is as meticulously crafted as a Bach fugue.**

The plot-driven vs. character-driven dichotomy can be overdone, but J&J (both versions) is definitely character driven. The Julie Powell of the movie, as portrayed by Amy Adams is petite, sweet, cute, lovable and - even with both her strange cooking and blogging obsession, and her tendency to fall apart when the going gets tough - a devoted and faithful wife. (Everything the real-life Julie Powell evidently is not - but that, too is another story***.) The Julia Child of the movie, as portrayed by Meryl Streep, is a wonder to behold. If this movie had nothing else to recommend it, Streep's performance by itself would be worth the price of admission.

The common drive that these two very different characters share - and that provides the point-counterpoint of the interweaving stories - is self-discovery. Each is a secretary in a government agency, working far from home in a job that provides more irritation than satisfaction. As Julie approaches her 30th birthday, and Julia acclimates to her new life as a housewife in France, each asks herself the question, "What am I going to do?" Julia means: with her copious spare time. Julie means: with her life. So Julia enrolls in the Cordon Bleu Cooking School of Paris. Julie cooks and blogs. Two very different adventures, but with enough points of commonality that the transitions from one story line to the other serve to illuminate both.

And, of course, (though each might have gotten the answer to the other's question) they both have happy endings.

Now, I've come to the point where I have to say something bad about the movie. After the infamous boeuf-la-bourguignonne disaster, Julie has one of her classic melt-downs. Husband Eric - otherwise a stalwart quasi-saint, stomps off in a huff. This is more than a simple break in character continuity. It is also a deviation from the book - and, in this critic's humble opinion, a gratuitous, manipulative ploy that oonches up the chick-flick quotient by about an order of magnitude. If he didn't leave, how could she miss him so; and how could they reconcile? But I won't let that one flaw spoil for me an otherwise quite charming adventure. Let's just be charitable and think of it as Nora's version of a Navajo humility mark.

* Evidently that's because the two main characters are women, unlike Toy Story, where they're - oh, never mind; bad comparison. But there's also love (the mooshy kind), men who are (mostly) devoted husbands, and a noticeable absence of things (other than the occasional lobster pot) that go BOOM.
** Speaking of music: another type of interleaving occurs between the story and the background music chosen at certain critical moments. Putting the Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer" up against the event where Julie has to dissect a live lobster is nothing short of brilliant.
*** "Cleaving: A Story Of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession"


PJB-Chicago said...

JZB; Wow, that is a seriously well-crafted review--more thoughtful and better written than any I've seen in a long while. Haven't seen the movie yet; every week we plot out activities and only get out to do about half of them. Comedy gigs are hard to turn down but they're always last minute. Streep will certainly be given awards (she's often nominated but hasn't won as many as some of her less talented peers.)
Your blog is now officially on the "must read list!" I also appreciate your political views. And music/poetry blogging as well.
See you around the Corner. pjb

Jazzbumpa said...


Thanks for visiting, and for the kind words.

I'm a frustrated writer, and every once in a while something like this spills out.

Atul said...

Hi, interesting blog, i had watch coraline movie , its a nice one