There are two types of people in this world: those who see cooking as a chore and those who don’t. Both views are valid, of course. Julie Powell, who sadly passed away recently, was certainly one of the latter. A food writer whose fame was her 2002 Julie/Julia project, a blog chronicling the challenge she set herself to cook the 524 recipes of Julia Childit is Master the art of French cuisine.
Although Child herself was ambivalent about the business, Powell was a pioneer in the then-nascent social media era, likely inspiring others who aren’t career leaders to open their journeys. culinary to an online audience. The Julie/Julia project was so successful that the blog quickly became a book, and that book became a movie.
Julia and Julia was the last feature Nora Ephron written, produced and directed. Released in 2009, it follows the intertwined stories of Julie as she balances the challenge with her job and marriage, and Julia as she masters the art of French cuisine in Paris. None of these women knew that cooking would become their career, even though they enjoyed both cooking and eating, until their late 20s and late 40s respectively, and we simultaneously follow the beginnings of their successes. Raising the child as Cordon Bleu’s only woman, her and her collaborators writing and rewriting a cookbook together and battling with publishers, and Julie’s 365 days of French cuisine, as she makes mistakes, learns from them and persists through everything.
The highlight of this film for many is Meryl StreepJulia Child’s performance, once again showing what an incredibly capable actress she is, as Child is just one of many real people Streep has played. It’s a nice little period piece; her and Stanley Tucci like her husband Paul Child has wonderful chemistry. It gives credit where credit is due, in that Child is not creating his magnum opus alone. Julie’s story, on the other hand, is generally overlooked by people as a mid-level rom-com, with some people reacting extremely negatively to her character. Played by Amy Adams, Julie Powell is a cabin worker who, struggling with ADHD, finds something she can commit to for a full year to escape the rigamarole of her everyday life, while learning something new. Powell herself had written about how shocking it was to see a fictionalized version of herself on screen, but as much as Streep shines in her role, people should be a lot nicer to Julie, all the more so. that food influencer culture has come so far, for better or worse.
The small escapes of good food
If you like to eat, you must learn to cook. It’s such a simple fact that it can sometimes go over people’s heads, especially when the best dishes seem so difficult to prepare. You don’t have to go to culinary school or be a line cook to make great food, and the process of making great food can be an incredibly therapeutic process. This is the heart of Julie’s story, and it’s a relatable story – life sucks sometimes. You may find yourself in a rut and without the resources to escape this life, so you find small loopholes within it. Julia and Julia demonstrates that the kitchen is the perfect escape. In a world full of chaos, you can have almost total control over something. Your actions are the only thing that changes the outcome of the meal, and there’s something almost comforting about that when you’ve spent your day being yelled at over the phone in your low-level admin job. And while cooking as a job or a career can be an incredibly stressful work environment, a home cook’s only stakes are usually their dinner, and possibly their kitchen.
Even if you hadn’t done anything that day, you can feel that sense of accomplishment when there’s a finished dish in front of you, especially if it tastes really good. And given the source Julie uses throughout the film, French cuisine being notoriously quite difficult for beginners, it’s the sense of accomplishment you sympathize with.
A case for the so-called “weaker half”
Although Julie is married in the film, and part of its plot is the controversial relationship she has with her husband (Chris Messina) on his resolute pursuit of his project, especially as it gains in popularity, this does not make for a romantic story. It’s not Julie and Eric’s story, it’s Julie’s story. Julie is the one who was looking for a challenge that would fulfill her; she went out and sought her own escape from reality, rather than waiting for it to come to her. She made the decision to challenge herself, and she managed to do so for an entire year, I envy Powell for what she was able to accomplish. Maintaining long-term projects is an uphill battle for many, and her early blogging wasn’t for fame, or a book deal, but to keep track of herself. Her goals were lofty, she shared her experiences authentically without claiming to be a professional chef, and her attachment to Julia Child is something we can all relate to.
We all have our heroes, someone in our lives with whom we have a deep and meaningful connection. As much as critics have branded the fictional Julie an influence hunter, riding the child’s tail, people tend to forget that weight hunting wasn’t a thing in 2002. Nobody expected to become famous on the internet at the time, people would just talk about a vacuum, and then sometimes others would listen. Julia’s story mirrors Julie’s in this way – she was a government employee who moved to Paris with her husband, and she learned to cook to challenge herself, to find something that would motivate her, and more than anything, she loved the food. She didn’t start out wanting to write a cookbook, just like Julie didn’t start this challenge out wanting to be famous, although it’s in every creator’s head whether we’re really honest with ourselves. They wanted a challenge and they wanted to make good food.
This film is magnificent in its cinematography of French cuisine – when it’s not on the floor or in the sink, that is – and it shows how food can connect people, even decades and separate countries. Powell started something really beautiful with the success of his blog. It helped her find her literary voice, and putting her in front of an audience gave her the motivation and incentive to persist through the challenge despite every meltdown and mess. It reminds me why I started working here. Anyone can cook, like the Pixar movie Ratatouille once taught us that a good meal can mend almost any heartache, and Julia and Julia teaches us all to engage in a passion and challenge ourselves to be better.
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