Last night, my mom and I went to see Julie & Julia, which was just released, and stars Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. It chronicles Julia Child’s rise to culinary fame, and Julie’s ascendancy through the blogosphere. It is a sweet movie, practically devoid of any real conflict, and the food scenes are great. The movie portrays cooking as a true art, requiring hard work to master it, and also a gesture of love for oneself and one’s family, and was refreshingly free of stereotypes about women in the kitchen. Heretofore I never even dreamed of deboning a duck before and wrapping its deflated carcass in flaky pastry…but I want to now!! Paris is as lovingly filmed as the food; the eye of the camera lingering over its stately stone buildings, verdant parks, bustling open-air markets, and enchantingly small shops and cafes.
The acting is similarly wonderful. Meryl Streep does an excellent job–as usual–and she and Stanley Tucci make a darling couple. There’s a memorable scene when Julia and her sister (played by Jane Lynch) are standing in front of a mirror before a party, wearing beautiful 1950’s taffeta cocktail dresses. They stand together, sizing themselves up.
“We look pretty good, don’t we?” Julia remarks, then pauses. “But not great!”
It’s just so funny and poignant and true all at once. Everyone in the audience laughed appreciatively.
Unfortunately, despite all its strengths, this charming film does not escape sexism completely. The modern-day protagonist, Julie, is cooking and blogging, working and cooking, blogging and working…to the extent that she doesn’t have time to babysit her husband! Which means she is a bitch! In a totally useless scene that imo did nothing to further the movie, she and a friend sit in a bar.
“I’m such a bitch!” wails Julie, weeping into her martini.
Her friend agrees.
“Am I really a bitch?” asks Julie, a moment later. Clearly, she had been expecting her friend to refute the sentiment, and was giving her a second chance.
Why is Julie a bitch? She certainly doesn’t look mean, w/ her cute little pixie-cut and kewpie-doll eyes. Sure, she has a high-stress, dead-end job and has just moved to an apartment that she hates for the sole benefit of her husband, but come on, Julie, SUCK IT UP. Oh, and her mother–like all fictional mothers–is nasty and unsupportive. Julie copes by embarking on a year-long personal journey; but whereas some of us might have fled to Tibet to live in a monastary, Julie achieves zen through cooking and praying to St. Child. TOO BAD Julie forgot that any free time has to be spent doting on her husband. He has needs! Namely, he needs her to sleep w/ him when he feels like it, even if she’s in the middle of trussing a chicken. And if she doesn’t, he will storm away! Angrily! After all, it’s okay for Julie to sacrifice her happiness for her husband’s job, but HEAVEN FORBID that she inconvenience him in any way.
Don’t worry though, once Julie realizes that she was being “selfish” and “narcissistic” and is properly contrite (ladies, doing something for yourself is ALWAYS selfish! And bitchy! Don’t forget that!), her husband indulgently comes back to her. And then they have sex. Then Julie gets a book deal and blogs happily ever after. The end.
Note: I have not read the book the movie was based on, and so am speaking directly to the film here. It could be that the book explains things more fully; I don’t know.