Friday, August 7, 2009

The stuff that dreams are made of.

I've been reading some rather cold reviews of Nora Ephron's latest movie, Julie & Julia, and they're annoying me for some reason. Granted, the movie has its flaws, and I don't think it can help the fact that 1950s Paris is just way more enchanting and fascinating than turn-of-the-millennium Queens (or that Julia Child, who spent several years learning how to cook and working her typing and cooking fingers to the bone on that marvelous cookbook is a more compelling subject than Julie Powell, who spent one year cooking someone else's recipes and getting the kind of online attention that most bloggers of any subject can only dream of after so relatively short a time). <-- Was that the most long-winded parenthetical afterthought or WHAT?!

But I'm a hopeless sucker for "living your dream" stories, especially when they're apparently true stories, and MOST especially when they're about budding writers - a company I fancy myself a part of. And, even if she isn't that likable, I couldn't help pulling for Powell, living the life of a nobody in New York City and feeling the thrill of getting comments and people interested in her project. There was more than one occasion during the movie where I found myself saying "Hey, that's me!" I'm rather thankful, though, that I don't yet have a set of "ritual cobb salad lunch" friends.

And I loved the fact that they included the very real circumstance of Julia Child finding out about Powell's blog and not being flattered or impressed in the slightest, and even being a little put out by it. And that, ultimately, that didn't matter and didn't diminish Powell's affection for her hero one iota.

I like movies like this, the ones that remind you how frickin' GREAT it feels to know what you want and to go for it, even without knowing if you'll succeed or not. To do something because you enjoy it, not because it's someone else's idea of what your "real life" is supposed to be. Movies that make you literally want to go out and buy a cookbook and see if you can cook beef bourguignon. Cheesy or not, I love it when I go to a movie and leave the theater walking a little differently, taking deeper breaths, and holding my head a little higher. Movies SHOULD do that. Not all of them have to lift you up, of course, but any movie that makes you a different person leaving the theater than you were when you walked in is a success in my book.

I suppose at this point, critics of Julie & Julia would say they have nothing against any of this either, and that the problems in the film lie elsewhere. I won't argue that (though I do disagree with some points I've seen made, which rather enthusiastically miss what I see as the point). But, if nothing else, Meryl Streep's ebullient portrayal of Julia is well worth sitting through whatever other problems you might have with the storytelling or characters. I don't think joie de vivre has ever been so perfectly captured.

Enchanté, Mrs. Child.

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