Sunday, August 30, 2009

Before There Was Top Chef...

...there was Julia Child. And Julie Powell.

By now, the story of Julie & Julia is well known - a few years ago, Julie Powell decided to cook her way through "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," the cookbook that put Julia Child on the map and started her down the road to international stardom. Self described as "too old for theatre, too young for children, and too bitter for anything else," Powell set for herself the goal of tackling all of the book's 536 recipes in one year, while blogging about it along the way. And along the way, there were successes and there were failures - but ultimately she finished the project, secured a book deal, became pretty darn famous for a blogger, and is now the subject of the movie which bears her name, along with that of her hero and idol.

From what I've read, there is now a backlash in the blogosphere against Julie Powell, and many of the reviews of the film have criticized the portion of the film that tells her story, while heaping lavish praise on the "Julia Child" portion. For what it's worth, I agree with those who have argued that Julie Powell deserves all the credit in the world, because without her Julie & Julia would never have existed.

Having said that, I don't think there's any question that the Julia Child portions of the film are superior to the Julie Powell sections. That doesn't mean the Julie Powell sections are awful - they're not. They're entertaining, and they do a good job realistically depicting a marriage where both partners are determined to make it work, while having limits on how much leeway they're able (or willing) to afford each other.

What it all boils down to is that Amy Adams and Chris Messina are not Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci. Which is not their fault; they're not bad in their roles. But Streep and Tucci are great in theirs, and Streep is a good deal more than that - she's amazing. I don't know enough about the art of acting to be able to describe what she does on screen, but suffice to say that she becomes Julia Child - voice, mannerisms, in the way she carries herself, and in her always obvious zest for life.

As I watched it, each time the Julie sections were underway, I found myself wanting to go back to Julia. But overall, it's a fun movie, especially for anyone interested in cooking - or blogging.

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