Posts Tagged With: Meryl Streep

Julie & Julia and Jules

Julie Powell had buttery ambitions: cooking her way through the 524 aspic and marrow-laden recipes of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year.  And she did it all in a stuffy Queens, New York apartment the size of a cat litter box.

I read Julie & Julia last summer, and actually found myself craving butter and beef in an unnatural way. I immediately admired Julie for her fearless attempt to bitch-slap French cooking without a gym membership—all the while chronicling her sticky predicament on a saucy blog detailing the grandiose failures, dropped ducks, lobster murders and gimlet intake.

In Nora Ephron’s film, Meryl Streep is the perfect Julia Child, a chortling cherub in pearls who gets weak in the knees over a wheel of brie. I wanted to sip all of Julia’s simmering broths and stare at her gams and hams with a port while she hummed and clattered around her kitchen (which is now a famed installation at the Smithsonian). Amy Adams portrayal of the non-fiction Julie Powell was unfortunately a bit whiny and twerpy, and had me longing for a jump scene to Meryl’s charming Julia in 1950s France.

nice legs

nice legs

The movie runs in two separate but interwined story lines based on Julia’s memoir (My Life in France) and Julie’s butter blog end-product (Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 recipes,1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen).  The competing plots feed each other appropriately, and most often, sensually. Julia stuffs the bird that Julie beautifully glazes years later.

Chris Messinna plays a relatively dorky Eric Powell with all the manners of a caveman when it comes to sampling his wife’s culinary successes and disasters. Online reviews have credited Eric for his staying power and doting husband-ness. As Julie threw flour-dusted tantrums on the kitchen floor and wailed over unintentionally blackened beef, Eric talked her through every situation with the eloquence of a syrupy Hallmark card.

I think I rooted for Powell more in her book as she was a genuine trucker-mouth in an apron with an unstoppable ambition to reach her goal.  And she drank a lot more in the book, understandably. The movie “Julie” was leaning towards the spinelessness of a jellyfish, falling prey to frequent teary episodes as her soufflés waffled and non-congealing aspics were turned on to serving plates with the consistency of a snotty nose.

The girl had guts though, and a primal love for Julia Child, who basically dissed Julie and her humble goal in the end. Julia saw naive mockery, Julie envisioned an honourable tribute.  I was reminded of the time that my lit hero Margaret Atwood looked down her snooty nose at me (actually, up her snooty nose as I was about 10 inches taller) at the Royal York Hotel and gave me the brush-off like I was cat hair on her black wool jacket. In that moment of reflection, I felt a little compassion for Julie, jilted like I was by Atwood.  Oh, the red-faced agony. I think if I were Powell  I may have ditched the loving year-long tribute to Child and boiled the French cooking tome with pork hocks and piss—and then chucked it over the balcony.

Certainly, the film is a testament to the power of butter and blogging. Julie Powell had a dead-end government clerk cubicle  job that was left in her blog

Moules frites...what I would have made to seduce Julia Child.

Moules frites...what I would have made to seduce Julia Child.

pixie dust when Eric suggested she write about what she loved, cooking.  As Julia Child said, “find something you’re interested in and keep tremendously interested in it.”

And now Julie Powell is laughing into her mortar and pestle, probably eating Oreos for breakfast while sipping Dom through a pink bendy straw.

Regardless, super-sizing Powell’s blog into a movie was clever because the world loves to eat. The camera work that examines Julie and Julia’s boiling and sizzling meat is screened like lingering shots of a lover’s body. As a director, Ephron makes the audience crave whatever is in the pots, pans and on the lips of the stars, teasing us with decadent food and Streep’s bang-on accent. The woman is like a juke box of dialects.

In addition to my affection for anything Meryl Streep and food blogs, I’ve also become a bulimic fan of Food Network television. Ina Garten and Nigella Lawson have turned their kitchens into the equivalent of the Playboy mansion of food stuffs. Anthony Bourdain’s  book Kitchen Confidential and foodie show No Reservations are totally pornographic–the Red Light District of food. Anna Olson’s Sugar is a fairytale la-la land of lace cookies, crisps, crumbles and fritters.  Then there’s Bob Blumer who can take a simple Medjool date, stuff it with parmigiano-Reggiano and wrap it in salty bacon and make it seem like a love scene from The Hunger or Blue Lagoon. I’ve already decided—those Medjool dates are going to be my substitute for wedding cake.

sweet nothings

sweet nothings

Julia & Julia will piggyback on the addictions of the Food Network’s captive audience. The lusty lure of sugary cakes, smoking grills and open cupboards brought to the big screen will be like leading flies to a just-baked pie.  We have Julia Child to thank for this, she was the pioneer of butter smut and fricassee wet dreams after all.

Interestingly, Julia Child attributed her longevity to red meat and gin. Julie Powell will attribute it to butter and a blog.

 And Jules Torti? All of the above with movie popcorn.  Bon appétit.

Post-blog snacks:

My Julia Child Thai cooking experience–

Meryl Streep and Amy Adams dish out their favourite Julia Child recipes—;jsessionid=HIYXOM0T0GGNGCQCEASCCAQ?page=2

The real live Julie Powell, still blogging–

The Blumer Medjool date recipe–

The movie trailer–

Categories: Eat This, Sip That | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Rachel Getting Married

Movies about weddings usually carry an unspoken guarantee. Much like a Meryl Streep film, you know it’s going to be good. Muriel’s Wedding (1994), Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) and Mamma Mia (2008), were all box office sledgehammers.But Rachel Getting Married? Ugh.

Not Rachel Getting Married, some anonymous couple in Lake Louise knot-tying

Not Rachel Getting Married, some anonymous couple in Lake Louise knot-tying

Director Jonathan Demme has delivered knock-outs like Silence of the Lambs (1991), Philadelphia (1993) and The Manchurian Candidate (2004). His latest and supposedly greatest Rachel Getting Married was filmed in 33 days and opened the 65th Venice International Film Festival.

Jenny Lumet, a juniour high drama teacher, daughter of Sidney Lumet and granddaughter of Lena Horne, wrote the screenplay. Demme loved Jenny’s “flagrant disregard for the rules of formula and lack of concern for making characters likeable in the conventional sense.” No kidding.

Anne Hathaway, who plays Kym, the troubled, just out of rehab Buchman family member, was nominated for Best Actress (the Oscar went into the proper hands of Kate Winslet for The Reader).The eponymous bride, Rachel, was handled boldly and beautifully by Rosemarie DeWitt, with more patience and grace under fire than I could swallow. When her whining whippet of a sister (Kym) comes home for the wedding, the sibling battle begins, and rightfully so. The tension between the sisters is so palpable and uncomfortable that I found myself wanting to smack Kym with at least one stinging slap across the face. Dinner parties became hunting grounds for the sisters, and the house full of captive wedding guests allows Kym ample opportunity to exercise her rehab humour and spur on yelling matches. She steals more attention from Rachel than a NFL half-time streaker.

And there is so much yelling that weekend of the wedding. It reminded me of a t-shirt I saw a guy wearing on the subway in Toronto last year: “I’m not yelling, I’m Italian!” Apparently some families yell as a way of expressing their love for each other, this is new to me.

It comes as no surprise that Rachel Getting Married sits at 86% on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer. I left my seat twice to make popcorn and grab another beer (slow moving movies = faster drinking apparently). Usually I ask Wanda to hit ‘pause’ but I was secretly hoping that she would accidentally press ‘fast forward’ on the remote. One hour into the movie I asked if she wanted to stop it and watch something on the Food Network. “No, we’ve watched it this far.” And so we twitched and cringed to the bitter end, waiting for their estranged mother, Debra Winger, to possibly steal the show, waiting for the big reveal of something. Like the explanation of the emotional worms eating at dear old Kym, explaining her slap-worthy behaviour and rants.

But, that explanation didn’t fully come with acceptance until I emailed Rona Maynard, telling her that I had just watched the dreadful Rachel Getting Married. A reader on Rona’s blog “Let’s Talk” had suggested the movie on a recent posting on the theme of healing estrangements ( The reader recommended the movie as she felt it deftly handled the squirmy topic of family rifts and resolve “without being manipulative.” Rona replied almost instantly to my email.

Hmmm…I’m the one who loved Rachel Getting Married. Saw it twice, in fact—and on the second viewing felt more compassion toward all characters, including Hathaway’s.” Rona went on to explain that sometimes a “dangerously enmeshed family avoids burningly important truths whle stepping uninvited into everyone else’s business. Kym is what family therapists call ‘the identified patient'(scapegoat).” SPOILER HERE– “They can’t bear to talk about the dead brother, so she provides a convenient distraction.”

And so, my fiery backlash at Hathaway was gently downgraded. I will have to watch the movie again with Rona’s slant on scapegoat-ism and Kym being the true victim in a movie that makes her seem like the villain.

But before that I will rent Margot at the Wedding because Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Jason Leigh exhibit sibling rivalry at its best. The wit and clever dialogue had me rooting for both sisters instead of dividing my allegiance like Rachel Getting Married.

You decide. Or, if you’ve decided, let me know if you’d watch Rachel get married again.

Trailer for Margot at the Wedding:

Rachel Getting Married:


Categories: Flicks and Muzak | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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