It's a marginally ok film. I mean, it drives me nuts when films try to talk about writing because it all seems too easy and perfect and worst of all inevitable. Not to mention her husband is horrible in the movie and calls her selfish for no visible reason, except that she cooks awesome things all the time and worries about her life and talks about her projects a lot. If that's selfish I am Beezlebub. Also: blogger. Duh. Does what it says on the tin, jerkface.
Not enough food porn by a long shot, though I liked the bits with Actual Julia Child, as the travails of hipster bloggers who feel it's a tragedy to live in Queens are not really My Bag. And the other night, when we were all sitting about discussing how to live life so as to not want to die all the time, with a dominant metaphor of skinny Buddhas (who focus solely on work in an ascetic and disciplined way) vs. fat Buddhas (people who might not do so well in their professional lives but have very full souls, with hobbies and food and video games and friends and such) which is bad Buddhism but good shorthand, I said "DIMA OBVIOUSLY YOU MUST COOK EVERY RECIPE IN JULIA CHILD'S COOKBOOK AND THEN YOUR LIFE WILL BE FINE."
Dima takes everyone at their word. It is one of his most charming traits. So he said "REALLY? Do we have it?" and I said sure, we have volume II, anyway, and cracked it open.
And I started frowning. And I got why, in the film and in real life, Julia Child didn't think much of Julie's little project.
First of all, it shocked me that in the film (ok, I haven't and won't read the book) there was no discussion of what seemed to me the most onerous of the skills to be learned in Child's repetoire: pastry. Dude, that shit is time consuming. Hundreds of layers of butter and dough. I love to cook and I draw the line at fresh pastry. But the movie's all: OMG I HAVE TO BONE A DUCK. Whatever, duck's dead, it's meat. It's gross, but it's not this GIANT SKILL like making pastry is. It also takes like 1/100 of the time.
But as I contemplated for a moment cooking out of Child's book for a set time, just to try it out, I got very cranky. Because I am a cook and I love it and I am an experimenter. I never saw a recipe I couldn't mess with. But I don't like parsley, I will use cilantro, which Child hated, I would certainly say, and the minute I see a recipe for seafood soup I immediately start changing it around and adding my exotic ingredients that I have around the house and in the end it would only use Child's recipe for a base. I think that's why Child sniffed at the experiment--chaining yourself to a recipe and never innovating is not an art, it's paint by numbers, and kind of boring. It's tying yourself to someone else's passion and work and doing very little of your own, and that kind of sucks. I'm glad it helped that blogger and made her a bazillion dollars (though seriously when I go look at the blog now its navigation is impossible and graphics hideous--come on, you have to consider future readers) but I could never do it, because it seems empty exercise to me, and not creative or fun. Just a slog through an assignment.
So Mme. Child is not going to get us through our concerns about modern life. These blog projects that become books and movies make me somewhat sad, because in the end they are unrepeatable experiments. We can watch, but to imitate has no power. We can take their lessons into our own lives but not their action--and that's just more consuming, and no one feels good and whole and satisfied consuming and not doing for too long. No matter how simplistic the original experiments were, tt's unforgiveably derivative to repeat them, and I don't think they would help anyone in the repeating, because the freshness of doing something you came up with yourself is gone. We always have to push the envelope of online quests to save ourselves, to wake ourselves up--and then how long do we stay saved, stay awake?
Judging from Powell's follow-up book, not very long.