Saturday, August 08, 2009

Julie & Julia

Sally and I saw Julie & Julia yesterday. I found one of the stories it tells good, the other great. While Julia Child's story of her time in France after World War II is compelling, Julie Powell's story of her obsession with Child, and with completing all of the recipes in Child's book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in 365 days is slightly less so.

Julie Powell is one of those people who stumbled into a gimmick, in this case a blog detailing her progress with her project, and then wrote a book about it. There isn't anything wrong with that, but some of the drama involved with her life that year is pale compared to the Julia Child story.

On the other hand, Julia Child was almost a force of nature, about whom drama swirled. Tall for a woman, or even a man, at 6'2", and with a voice unique from every other English-speaking person, she used her distinctive personality and physical presence to sell herself. Her Public Broadcasting program, The French Chef, was wildly popular, and I wonder if it wasn't more her than what she was doing. I liken her to Rachael Ray, or Emeril, where the program is not really about cooking, but about the person doing the cooking. If we are attracted to them then the cooking show is secondary. How many people actually complete the recipes they see done on TV? C'mon, raise your hands. Aha. I thought so. There's a woman in the back and one guy in the middle section waving at me, and maybe one of them is lying.

Julia Child stood out, literally, in a crowd and I believe she was destined for greatness.

Director/writer Nora Ephron was wise to combine the two books, My Life In France by Child and her nephew, Alex Prud'Homme, and Powell's Julie and Julia, which together make a complete story. Powell's story alone would not have been enough to make a movie, or if it had been it would have probably been tepid. Ephron could have just filmed Child's story. It would have been enough, especially with Meryl Streep's Oscar®-worthy performance.

But as Ephron chose to tell it, the hook is the story of two women, displaced in time by a generation, connected by food. As good as Streep is, and both Sally and I wanted to see the movie as soon as we saw the teaser with her as Child, I also like Amy Adams, who has a real appeal.

She was without her sexy long red hair in Julie and Julia, wearing a brunette hair style my wife wore in 1972, but despite the hair her expressive eyes and face make her the center of attention during a scene. She's a true movie star, but whether she's another Meryl Streep will probably take a few years to determine. The thing I liked most about Powell's story was that she was portrayed by Amy Adams.

The thought struck me that Adams physically resembles Nicole Kidman. Adams has taken the roles that Kidman would have been offered when she was Adams' age. It's like I mentioned a week or so ago when I talked about Kyra Sedgwick in the TV series, The Closer, there's a shelf life for pretty young actresses, and they really need to have something else going for them when their expiration date is due, about age 40. I hope that years from now I'll be seeing Amy Adams because it isn't just her youth that makes her so beguiling, it's her wide-eyed and open face, and that won't fade with age.

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