Review: Julie & Julia

Save the liver!

Oh, right, that was Dan Aykroyd.

So I finally saw Julie and Julia, and it really made me wish for more. Specifically, I wished for more of the Julia story. If someone decides to do a full treatment of Julia Child’s My Life In France I’ll be first in line to see it.

The Julie part of the story? I could have done without most of that.

In case you’ve somehow missed it, Julie and Julia is the true story of Julie Powell’s decision to cook her way through Child’s opus Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year. That’s over 500 recipes, including several complex procedures that aren’t often done in the home kitchen — like Powell’s final challenge: boning a duck.

The movie is told as interwoven biographies, as it also tells the story of Julia Child’s arrival in France, her decision to attend Le Cordon Bleu, and her 10-year struggle to write and publish her book.

What’s painfully clear from watching the two stories develop together is that Julia loved food. Once she started taking it seriously, she wanted to master everything about it. Julie, on the other hand, was looking for something to do. Something she could do every day to overcome her chronic failure to complete what she starts.

Since Julie’s story was never really about the food — it was just a backdrop to discuss her personal development — there wasn’t much point in comparing their cooking styles. Instead, the movie focused on the parallels between Julia’s book, and Julie’s blog.

So how do those stories stack up?

Julia: 2 volumes, over 700 pages, 524 recipes; 10 years to research, test, write and edit; 2 collaborators, 1 falling-out; carbon-paper copies sent by mail between at least 4 countries; 1 publishing deal that falls through after they’ve paid an advance; finally published when she was nearly 50.

Julie: 1 year, 524 recipes, 1 profile in a major newspaper, multiple book deal offers by the time she’s 30.

I don’t begrudge her success. When lightning strikes and you’re standing there to pick up the fire you’d be a fool not to jump on it. But in terms of dramatic possibilities … well, there’s just not much “there” there.

As a food writer myself, I probably reacted to parts that most people would never notice. Like the moment when the first book deal falls through and Julia asks her husband, “Has all this been just something for me to do?” I’ve had some conversations that I thought were leading to opportunities that haven’t materialized (yet), so I know about getting your hopes up.

Or when Julie ruins a dish but still has to get something done in time to write about it. The late-night run to the corner store for more milk and butter.


This movie is a great appetizer, piquing my interest in reading Julia Child’s Life in France. But I have a feeling if I had read the book first, that I would want those two hours back.