What's Wrong With Julie & Julia

We've had a couple of days to digest the trailer for Julie & Julia, the movie based on the book based on the blog based on Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and we've decided that we're not happy.

Let's be blunt: Julie Powell's Julie & Julia was not a thrilling, uproarious read. To give the movie version a bit more of a narrative thrust than just an endearingly downtrodden blogger-type cooking her way through the book (with enough cameos by New York food gliterrati to make all the bloggers swoon), the filmmakers have made the decision to splice Julie's story together with Julia's. Half of the film is based on Child's memoir My Life in France, the other half on Julie Powell's book. From the looks of it, it's two movies, all intertwined, where (if we've learned anything from multi-chronological women-oriented dramedies) somehow they'll all tie together in some climactic, thematic, and endearing way.

So that's what makes us sad. From the looks of the trailer, the Julia Child part of the story, set in France in the 1950s, looks like a wonderful movie. Child's life is a great story — she was an "international spy"! She was a groundbreaking cookbook author! She was one of the first culinary television stars! She was endearingly goofy! — and we honestly think that her biography warrants its own film. Her legacy deserves more than being the other half to a Nora Ephron-penned romcom about a "lowly cubicle worker" who blogs and struggles and cries and gets a book deal.

Even worse, we suspect that because of Julie & Julia, we'll never actually get a well-made Julia Child film. Maybe we'll get a nice documentary someday, but it'll never be the film that we were supposed to get.

Video: Julie & Julia Trailer

—Raphael Brion

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26 Comments

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  1. Hear hear! I would love if they made My Life in France into a full-fledged movie.Julia did some crazy things in her lifetime. Unfortunately, some people in Hollywood don't think it 'has enough material' to fill 90 minutes. Which just means they don't think we'd want to sit there for an hour and half watching something that doesn't have typical Hollywood cliches.I beg to differ.

  2. So I saw Julie & Julia last night and was really very entertained. It gave great credit to the art of cooking, put value back in the recipe and exact measurements, and juxtaposed Julia Child to a modern day girl is such a manner that it really brought a broader audience to the theaters. And that's the dilemma, isn't it. Julia Child was a magnificent woman and I would have paid to see a biographical film of JUST HER, but how many other people would have? Because of the Julie Powell angle, the film makers were able to attract a new, younger crowd--girls who think baking brownies involves adding the requisite oil and egg to a box of Pillsbury mix.
    While I am too sad that it wasn't all about Julia, I am grateful that another generation of women might be exposed to Child, her spirit and her lessons.

  3. George Dunigan

    I saw Julie & Julia last night and it was a very good story I liked the dual story line, I was never a huge Julia Child fan, and would never have been if this movie was not made. I would never have gone to see a movie about a TV chef. It was only for the acting talent of Meryl Streep that I even considered viewing the movie. She was excellent! This was a very well done movie, it put Julia Child in a very loveable character making me wanting to know more about her life. If a another movie was made just about Julie who knows I may be compelled to go see it especially if Meryl Streep plays the part. Loved the movie!

  4. Erin H

    I have to agree with the last two comments. I too was not a fan of Julia Child, but am very curious about her only because of this movie (which I found quite charming). I never would have found her interesting enough to spend the money on the movie ticket if it hadn't been for this angle, which I didn't find to be a cliche. It's too bad that Mrs. Child didn't "approve" of what Julie Powell was doing - she set out to make French cooking accessible to the American woman, did so with Julie Powell, and then turned her nose up at it. Why shouldn't Julie Powell blog about it, write a book, and then give her OK to the movie? It IS an accomplishment to cook well, especially French cooking. And whether Ms. Powell blogged about her experience in a way that was pleasing to Child or not, the fact is that because of the blog and subsequent developments, Child's cookbook will most likely fly off shelves and introduce a whole new generation of men and women to French cooking who might otherwise not think twice - or think it's possible - about opening it to begin with.

  5. John Schillinger

    Just saw Julie and Julie this evening. Enjoyed Meryl Streep's Julia thoroughly, and wondered if the casting involved finding lots of short actors to make Meryl appear much taller. Camera angles clearly helped--many shots from below. What caught my eye was a culinary goof--you can't boil live lobsters with the rubber bands still on the claws, which Julie does with no less than three of them. My wife and I made that mistake--just once--about 30 years ago. Nobody would have enjoyed the rubber-flavored results--in contrast to the film's depiction of Julie and friends enjoying the meal!

  6. Gloria

    PS Wouldn't using an episode with Jacques Pépin and Julia in the kitchen been nice to put in.
    The times those two cooked together should be on Comedy Central.
    They sparred and cooked had fun and made fun of each other with such grace and style.The respect, admiration and love for each other showed a great friendship.

  7. I'm right up there with those who didn't start out as Julia Child fans (I grew up with her show on our black and white TV). I most certainly am a fan now and it's thanks to this movie. I saw it today and when I came home I declared it to be 'charming' and I see a commentor above me has stated the same. Not everything needs to be deep, and meaningful, and ripe with boring details! Can't we just have fun with something for a change, without disecting the living daylights out of it? I love the fact that Julia Child's hard work might not fall by the wayside, over time, like so many things do. I hope that the sheer joy of cooking will be reawakened for a whole new generation. I myself came home from the movie and immediately set to work making homemade banana bread (sans a mixer or an oven! I do have a small toaster/convection oven however), even though we had temps in the high 90's. Thank you Julie & Julia!

  8. I saw the movie yesterday afternoon, in the company of my 91-year-old sister and her 50-something son and his wife. It was delightful.

    When I used to cook, I cooked from Julia Child, to whose recipes I had graduated from those in the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.

    Yes, beef burgundy, leek-and-potato soup, beef Wellington (from "The French Chef"). Plus so many more wonderful dishes. And my husband and I used to watch Julia Child on TV, too.

    Additionally, I used to feed us from a whole host of delicious recipes in Diana Kennedy's "The Cuisines of Mexico."

    I think a great movie could be made by juxtaposing "My Life in France" with "The Essential Cuisines of Mexico." At 83, I have fond memories of both these authors, neither of whom I ever met in person.

    But, for the present, my thanks to Nora Ephron and Julie Powell for "Julie & Julia." (Never expect to know either of them, personally, either. But I like the movie and plan to buy it on DVD when it's available in that form.)

    Mary

  9. I have to say that I didn't go to the movie originally because it was about Julia Child. I went because it looked like a movie I could take my fourteen year old daughter to as it could be entertaining and might have a positive message. I also have to say that I watched Julia Child on television and enjoyed her very much. I myself am no cook, nor do I pretend to be. I am however, the mother of a daughter who is tall. Unfortunately, she thinks she is "too tall" and therefore to big. She got to see the amazing story of a woman, Julia Child accomplishing true greatness at something she loved. She also got to see a woman who wanted to accomplish something within her own world, set a goal and achieve it in a year. Those two messages/stories were great within themselves. However, the real plus for my daughter and I, was the experience of seeing two tall women ( Julia and her sister) being deeply loved and appreciated for who they were by their husbands and those around them. No one implied they were "less than" because they weren't tiny model types. Thank God. That part alone was a wonderful feature of that movie. My daughter seemed to walk a little taller when she left the movie. We aren't all models but that shouldn't hinder who we are or who we become. As a side note, we also thought we might actually try to cook something that didn't come out of a box. Nancy

  10. scotsgranny

    Saw the movie yesterday -- loved it, but after reading what you say, I agree that it was the "Julia" story I loved most and I'd have loved it to have been an entire movie about her. Saying that, however, adding Julie to the mix served as a wonderful advocation of the importance and benefits to a relationship/family of making food and cooking such an prominent part of daily routine. I hope it encourages others to start cooking --- real food! The similarity in the two women's marriages and spousal support was also lovely to observe. The only mistake I think Julia Child made was to encourage the use of American measuring cups! Who knows, if she had gone metric, we would all be using scales by now which are so much more accurate and simple.

  11. scotsgranny

    [corrected] Saw the movie yesterday -- loved it, but after reading what you say, I agree that it was the "Julia" story I loved most and I'd have loved it to have been an entire movie about her. Saying that, however, adding Julie to the mix served as a wonderful model for today's women, showing that there are so many benefits to making food and cooking as important as breathing. I hope it encourages others to start cooking --- real food! The similarity in the two women's marriages and spousal support was also lovely to observe. The only mistake I think Julia Child made was to encourage the use of American measuring cups! Who knows, if she had gone metric, we would all be using scales by now which are so much more accurate and simple.

  12. There was No, N-O similarity between the two marriages. Where as Julia and Paul loved each other unconditionally, Julie and what's-his-name were heartless to each other. All he cared about was his full stomach. He'd have been just as happy if she wrote a blog about ordering McD's every night. Julie & julia is half of a good movie.

  13. Uncle Otto

    Am I the only one to catch the mistake in the "Eat Me Daily" blog post?

    Julia Child was NOT an "international spy". She was a file clerk in the OSS when she met her husband in China, and Streep says so flat out in one scene in the film.

    Hint-----for those at "Eat Me"-----when you critique a film or anything else, please make sure you do some fact checking.

  14. Jeff

    I can't believe I just read a review of something based on the trailer. There really is too much space on the Internet. Next time see the movie then write your review. Jeez.

  15. Jim

    a huge AMEN to Jeff. Watch the movie, then come back with a real review

  16. Emkay

    The blog and the book and movie that followed introduced Julia Child to a new generation. I read the book a few of years ago and thought at that time (and still do) that Julia's story was much more compelling than that of Julie Powell, and it made me want to get to know Julia better. I read three other biographies--including My Life in France--and sought out DVD copies of The French Chef as well as the 1966 edition of MTAFC. What an incredible woman! That said, I thought the movie was just precious--Meryl Streep was channeling Julia; Meryl and New Orleans' own Stanley Tucci both deserve Academy Awards.

  17. Arthur

    I couldn't agree with you more. Poor Julia Child was robbed and so were all of us who grew up with her by our side and benefitted from having her as our teacher.

  18. Sara Astor

    I agree 100% I am too young to know Julia Child in her heyday, but after watching the scenes about her in the film, I am hungry for more! In fact, the best parts of an otherwise mundane film are the ones about Julia Child and her husband. Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci are fab. As for the actual blog, blah. I'm glad Julia Child did not endorse it.

  19. Lisa

    I found the premise or, rather, both premises of the movie to be intriguing and being based in fact makes it more so. I think it was well cast and of course Meryl Streep did an outstanding job bringing Julia to life. It was a very good movie but not a great movie. I found it entertaining, and that it was I expected of this movie.
    I admire Julie immensely for setting a difficult goal and accomplishing it by her deadline. I admire her marriage for being intact at the end of that year and again at the end of the publishing of her book and the making of the movie! I understand Julia feeling she was being used for a stunt as I imagine she'd been used and misused by people many times in her long life. But I don't see any evidence that Julie had any such ulterior motives. Julie genuinely admired Julia and it is obvious that in Julia's purpose in writing her cookbook was achieved in Julie’s life. I wish for both of their sakes that Julia had taken it as the huge compliment it was and not have felt used.
    For the person who criticized Julie's marriage and glorified Julia's, it is ridiculous to judge them as you did. Do you suppose that it was easy to be married to someone who achieved 536 recipes in 365 days, let alone having your life exposed in a blog then having a book written about it? Would you rather have had their marriage portrayed as idyllic? And how in the world do you know how loving Julia's marriage was? They were different people from different eras and different circumstances! In Julia's generation it was unheard of to talk about the negative aspects of your marriage, marriages were idealized and portrayed positively. Just think of the great myth of Jack and Jacque’s “Camelot!” The world completely changed between the 1946 when Julia married and somewhere after 1995 when Julie married. The latest information I've seen is that Julie is still married even after her adventures which are described in her second book Cleaved. Bad marriages don't last through such experiences.
    I completely disagree that Julia Child will be cheated by not having a great movie made about her life. Hollywood won’t be closing down anytime soon! It will happen and there will probably be a couple very bad ones also. I believe this movie will actually improve the chances of Julia’s great biopic being made sooner rather than later.

  20. Rae Franks

    I enjoyed the movie immensely. But then, I am one of those "love to eat - love to cook" persons.

    I agree, the dedication of Julie Powell is very commendable, and I would love to meet her.

  21. Michael

    While we're on the subject of insufferable blogging (though coming in three months after the last comment, the original post's author and I may be the last of the damned), what really makes the snide, ad hoc argument above better than Powell's? While I'm sure they're all worthy, I haven't read any other posts by this author, or the other comments on this post, or Powell's original blog; as such, I'm exactly as informed as the individual who thinks he's capable of advanced demogoguery over a movie trailer.

    'Julie and Julia' is a movie, and it engages in dramatic character development because, even for Julia Child, real life happens to be puncuated by moment of boredom and confusion. I can't begin to imagine a film that portrayed Child in a better light than Ephron's, even based solely on the trailer. The dry, heroicized story of Julia Child will never be produced, and we're probably better off for it. What we're not benefitting from is a glib blog post which overuses the word 'endearing' (apparently a slur for comfortable and aging hipsters) and curiously put the hyperbolic 'international spy' in scare quotes.

    In the end, nothing here has anything to do with Julia Child. It's one amateur journalist trying to knock another down a few pegs, an exercise in both stating the obvious and missing the point.

  22. Delia

    It sounds harsh, but I agree with Michael.....

  23. Nahla

    I'm repeating the movie as we speak, I must say that the Julie & Julia movie inspired me to learn about French cooking and just cooking in general. After watching the movie the first I called the bookshops to find out if they have the book in the store and I bought it. Can someone please tell me what size is the origanal book as the one I got from the bookstore (in South Africa) is smaller than the one I see on the movie, and someone mentioned in another blog that the book has clear glossy pictures could that be volume 2 of Mastering the art of French cooking?

    All in all for me the movie was great and Julie Powell gave it an oomph for young people like me.

  24. Maureen

    Perhaps this is just repeating what most of the comments on this post have said, but I thought "Julie & Julia" was a lovely film. And it has inspired in me an interest in Julia Child--I just tried cooking something from one of her cookbooks yesterday. That being said, I do think the Julia moments in the film did outshine the modern parts--mostly because Julia came off as so cheerful and passionate while Julie came off a little whiny.

    I tried reading Powell's book, but put it down because it just didn't hold my interest. Yet at the same time, I think Powell's cooking adventure made a good context for bringing Julia Child to a new generation of cooks--like me.

  25. John

    Meryl Streep, in a taped interview available on the PBS website, had a marvelous quote about what Julia Child's story illustrates, and it applies nicely to an earlier post from a mother of an exceptionally tall child who felt she was "too tall" to fit in. What Julia's life demonstrated, according to Streep was this: "The key to success is to be yourself, as vividly as possible." Having just seen the film, I have to agree with many of the posts that Julia's life made for a much more compelling story than Julie Powell's blog project. I left wanting more Julia and less Julie. It was baffling to me, however, to learn that Mrs. Child dismissed Powell as a publicity hound and a lightweight. Why she and her editor, Judith Jones, would fail to see the project as an opportunity to extend Child's audience to a new generation of aspiring chefs is utterly mysterious. Clearly, the film succeeded in doing so in spite of the lack of Child's endorsement.

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