Whenever someone mentions Julia Child, I feel a bit like Anne Hathaway’s character Andy Sachs early on in The Devil Wears Prada. Meryl Streep, in a deliciously wicked turn as fashion editor Miranda Priestly, undresses Andy’s dismissal of fashion’s influence in one fell swoop, pointing to the runway origins of her cerulean sweater.
While no one has ever publicly demeaned me on the topic of Julia Child before – I feel nonetheless ignorant on the subject. I am not well-versed on Child’s significance, even as I am certain her effects, like the colour of Andy’s sweater, surround me (I did stop to see Child’s kitchen at the Smithsonian, but because it was touted as a must-see exhibit more than anything else).
Julia Child’s kitchen at the National Museum of American History
On the flip side, while I won’t pretend to have followed Julie Powell during her year of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I did finish reading her memoir Julie & Julia recently. Her candid prose and sense of humour won me over almost immediately, and though her road to success may seem like a fairy tale to some, the foundation of her fame lay in her unrelenting execution of a novel idea. While I couldn’t relate to everything she went through, some of the internal pressures of being a blogger and the need for support were true for me too.
As a result, it was no surprise to me that on screen, even with Child’s romantic backdrop of an ideal Paris, Powell’s experience resonated with me the most. I do think Julia’s patience and perseverance with the publishing process was a little lost with the format of the back-and-forth-storytelling though, given she toiled nearly ten years over Julie’s one in the kitchen.
Though food plays a major role in the film (I’ve never wanted beef bourguignon so badly in my life), the movie really is about two women finding themselves with the aid of food. And if not equally important, the support they had from their husbands to overcome personal stagnation.
Much of the hype that surrounded the movie had to do with Meryl Streep’s supposed spot-on impersonation of Child, but I am not familiar enough with The French Chef to comment. However, she did a darn good job embodying a trembling exuberance for food, and maintaining a level of energy that seemed infectious to all that surrounded her. Amy Adams as Julie was adorable, and though not as much was expected of her, she emulated Powell’s spunk and escalating confidence.
If anything, the movie has given me a foundation to know more about Julia Child (I am devouring her memoir My Life in France as we speak), a desire to dabble in French cooking, and of course, rejuvinated my commitment to food blogging.
Julie & Julia is in theatres now.