September 15, 2009

Bon Apetit.....with a bit of heartburn

I saw two movies on Saturday. One at the movies, with Sandra D., one on my movie channel. Because I sure wouldn´t have paid a cent to see the second one (the aptly fitting title "Forgetting Sarah Marshall", which I already have, so on to more important things......)


This was a must see for me because I truly adore Meryl Streep and because I grew up with Julia Child. Oh, and Dan Akroyd did an awesome SNL Julia Child skit.

Yes, my mom was inspired by Julia Child to cook us French food. Even though, eventually, she gave up because its damn hard work. And bourride (thats fish stew with garlic mayonnaise) for less than appreciative recipients (the stew made my brother throw up) must have been a tad deflating. Despite this dip in the road, my mom continued to religiously watch "The French Chef". And I along with her.

I suppose it was a matter of time before this iconic figure and whirlwind woman-of-passion-for food-personality was brought to the silver screen in some form or another. And a modern day blogger managed to do just that. Hence we have a split screen tale of the evolution of both cooks. Julia Child introducing Americans to the notion that eatable food existed beyond its borders and Julie Powell's blossoming through the blogosphere.

Do we start with Julia Child? I think. 1949. Married to a cultural attachée. They are just moving to Paris. Where they live a wonderfully indulgent life, immersing themselves wholeheartedly into la vie a la francaise. Julia tries her hand at various hobbies. Moves on to cooking since the thing she does best is eat. Rest is history.

Julie Powell: boring job. Has weekly Sex In the City inspired meeting with three girlfriends who are about as charismatic as fish on ice. Slimy and cold. Are these girly-girl lunches pre or post SATC? Sad really. Because for the most part, they are portrayed as vacuous, dumb-as-straw, primping snobs.

Well, of the four girls, Julie is deemed the loser. Lives in Queens and works in a cubicle. Answering phones all day. She loves cooking. Is looking for a reason to be. A reason to exist. So crisis time. Her husband suggests blogging. She asks about what. He says I don´t know. She says: "I am going to cook receipes. All of Julia Child`s receipes. I will blog about that" (paraphrasing here). So she does. And the two stories flip back and forth between Julia Child's birthing process of a cook book that weighs more than a butterball turkey and Julie Powell's self-indoctrination of Julia Child's philosophized cuisine.

Of course, as an all-American Hollywood story goes, success and fortune follow Julie, naturally. And as it so precociously claims at the end, her book was made into a movie. Ha. Funny.

Even though I love Meryl Streep and you'd think this is a role from heaven, it falls flat. Its all quite a waste. She gets the mannerisms, that flourish of a voice, all right. She and Stanley Tucci are lovely, gentle, sweet. But I don´t know - the omelette does literally flop onto the floor. Boring. Tedious.

The modern bits with Julie Powell were, surprisingly, more engaging. Disappointing, as I expected so much from the sublime Ms. Streep. I have to say, her usual sparkle just did not jump off the screen this time around. So, director Nora Ephron did a crap job.

The Julia Child depicted here couldn´t shake off the coat of dust. Her flair and irresistible directness got lost in the woods, completely relinquishing her relevancy. The spirit of what she was, what she did for the culture of cooking and American television collapsed like a soufflé.

All in all, I think the film did more for the exponential increase of bloggers and potential chef de cuisines than anything in particular for the film world. Or Ms. Streep.

Somehow, despite excellent ingredients, not enough spice in this dish. And too much fat. Wasn't lean and mean enough.

Picture courtesy of wordpress.

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