Monday, August 17, 2009

Bon Appetit

“Julie & Julia” is the Boeuf Bourguignon of summer films. A must see. I love food movies: “Like Water For Chocolate”, “The Big Night”, “Babette’s Feast.” Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci are reunited again after “The Devil Wears Prada.” They have amazing repartee (kudos Nora Ephron) and are the perfect party hosts. Tucci pours a glass of champagne like a four-star sommelier then glides into effortless witticism. Amy Adams and Chris Messina, as Julie and Eric Powell, also make a splendid couple.

High points include segues between savage bites. Sure fine cuisine ought to be savored, but the unwavering, ravenous zeal Eric and Paul show for their respective wives’ culinary gifts make their characters so real. Close-ups of the Parisian food markets put our own Whole Food stores to shame. Equally delightful are shots of the exquisite cafes, but Stephen Goldblatt’s cinematography also works wonders on the Long Island Cityscape, which provides counterpoint to the Parisian allure. I especially liked the upper-level chug of the 7 train, the smoke stacks behind Con Ed, and the Pepisco sign.

Split between present-day New York and Paris in the ‘40s and 50’s the two interconnected stories could easily be the same Anachronistic thread. Opening with the sprightly grunt-worker, Julie Powell, needing more stimulation than her dead-end job can afford she challenges herself to cook her way through Julia Child’s "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". Now on its own this might seem trite, but this is so much more of a story about finding one’s passion, dedicating oneself to it and sharing it with the world. Child herself, had no idea how she was going to change the world. Both women find themselves in roughly the same flavorless point in their lives and want to sink their teeth into something that matters. Even before Powell starts her blog you can see how much she wants to help the victims of 9/11 and yet seems to get browbeaten day after day. She isn’t bitter, but determined to make a difference.

In one scene, when the Powells are in bed they discuss what might happen if Julie didn’t post for a day. Eric jibes his wife that her followers might kill themselves then he swallows a Tums tablet. In another bed scene, forty-some-odd years earlier, the Childs are chatting. Paul is lamenting that his life doesn’t seem to matter, but at least Julia has her book— that’s something to live for.

So we keep coming back to this theme of what to live for. What gratifies? Yes, there’s gluttony, a sprig of solipsism. And there’s lots of butter. Paul says of Julia that she is the butter on his bread and the breath in his life.

Let’s be grateful Child preferred whisking away her afternoon hours scrutinizing and sampling fresh fish, bread, cheese, fruits, and vegetables. If she hadn’t we Americanos might still be defrosting TV dinners.

1 comment:

  1. Love this! I'll have to see it on Friday (a holiday here). Last night I cooked up a storm and didn't ruin anything...except the kitchen. I cook a lot like Graham Kerr, The Galloping Gourmet. Remember him?