Julie and Julia; Finally, a movie that is better than the book.

February 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s interesting to review a memoir, because I have to keep in mind that this isn’t just a character and storyline I’m critiquing, this is an actual person and her life story.

You all should know by now the basis of the Julie and Julia story; how Julie Powell–native Texan and current New Yorker–cooked her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and how it changed her life.

My question is, how exactly did it change her life??

Julie Powell is a great storyteller.  She definitely knows how to take a single topic or thing–like one of the recipes–and weave this really great and interesting narrative around it.  In fact, I almost would equate her with Mary Karr and her memoir entitled The Liar’s Club.  But the thing about Powell is that she is really just a good storyteller.  I realize this is a memoir, but I admit I don’t see evidence of good writing skills.

In fact, the only conclusion that I can draw from this book is that Powell loves her liquor, loves her sex, loves her husband, and loves her swear words.  I’m not even convinced that she loves to cook, because every time she tells of one of her cooking escapades, it’s riddled with swear words and crying and slamming things.  I am sure that cooking any recipe in the book is difficult, but what I would’ve liked to see more of is not how much she loved her meal, but how much she enjoyed cooking it.

Which begs the question, what if she didn’t love cooking it?
To which I would have to reply, then what was the point? And what about it all changed her life?

I cannot criticize her character, because I definitely do not know this woman; although I think it would be safe to say that should we ever meet, we probably would not be friends.  Which is sad, because she could probably relate to me, you know, being from Texas and now living in the northeast and all.  But she is an unabashed Democrat, a liberal who doesn’t care to blatantly slam my political and (occasionally) religious beliefs in her anecdotes about her government job and the conversations she has.

Even though it’s a memoir, and even though it’s a true story, and even though it doesn’t have to follow the traditional rules and regulations of a typical fictional novel, memoirs have to have some sort of plot line to finish through.  They have to make a point, if they’re going to be in book form.  Powell says the whole point is that Julia Child helped her get her life back, helped her learn the art of mastering life, but I don’t see this at all in the book.  Powell doesn’t seem to have changed for better or for worse at the end nor does she state what exactly she did learn from this except that her life is a little bit better and she’s quasi-famous.

Instead, I found myself reading about a woman, who not only loves her vices, but loves to drone on and on and on about them, to the point that I wonder, does she do anything but drink, talk about sex, or swear?

Yeah, I found Amy Adams a much more likeable Julie Powell than Julie Powell herself.  I though the movie gave depth and quality and life to Powell’s “life-changing” experience.

I’m not surprised that Julia Child thought she was a twit.

No, I’m not criticizing her person, I just think that a book about her foray into Julia Child’s cooking world should be less about how much she sat around and drank while contemplating a recipe and more on what exactly is it about the cooking that she found captivating?  It can’t be just that she finally started and completed something.  And if it is, she can’t spend a year cooking french food and not have some sort of realization worth telling.

Memoirs are hard, because half of me thinks this blog is a horrendous attack on Powell as a person, and not a critique of her book as a work.  But I firmly believe that memoir-ists can’t just write about their lives to write about it.  They also must have a beginning, a middle, and an end in which the character (the author) tells us what all these stories mean to him/herself.

But I probably will read her second book, or at least try to slough through the insanities that is Powell because like I said, she’s a good storyteller, and I always love a good storyteller.

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