Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Review: The Julie/Julia Project


When I told my mom I was reading Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Kitchen, the memoir behind the soon-to-be-released film, she said, “I don’t think I’d want to read the book; I’d rather just be entertained by the movie.” As I was about halfway through the book, I understood her sentiment and somewhat agreed. It’s not like this is a complex literary novel that requires precise translation between book and film…I’m sure the movie will give you the whole story. But as I neared the end, I was glad I had taken the time to read it, because after all, movies and books have very different voices and very different marketing angles.

In case you haven’t heard of this story (or have been living in a hole and not seen the mass marketing campaign featuring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams), Julie Powell is a married 29-year-old who works as a temp in New York and is feeling a bit of ennui. She decides to embark on a year-long project in which she will cook all 524 recipes from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and blog about her endeavors. Obviously, this turns into one of those projects that seemed like a good idea at the time…until egg- and lobster-related disasters leave Julie screaming profanities at anything within vocal range.

At first, I was a bit put off by Julie’s blatant emotional honesty. She screams irrationally at her husband, to the point of me wanting to scream at him, “Please divorce this crazy woman;” her frustrations with work seem a bit selfish when they relate to dealing with the public after 9/11 [she writes the inappropriate thoughts that you may say in your head, but would never say outloud for fear of being labeled cruel and insensitive!]; and she curses…a lot. Which I don’t mind (I do live in New York, after all), but others might find excessive (as did some of her blog readers).

However, I grew to love Julie’s voice. I could care less about cooking, but, though it was the core of the project, it was not the core of her writing. She kept the dialogue interesting and humorous enough by focusing on her life outside of the cooking as well. You really want to cheer her on with this project as she describes all its ups and downs, and you think, “Hey, maybe she’s not so bitchy and obsene all the time,” as she describes how close she is to her husband. The writing is witty and her personality is fiery, to say the least. Plus, she does eventually realize the error of her ways in blog-whining (though it doesn’t happen until 211 pages in).

When I said I am glad I read the book, it’s for this reason: sweet little Amy Adams is not going to play a character that openly hates Republicans and uses the word “fuck” profusely. It’s just not as marketable. Sure, the basics of the story will be the same, and Julie’s character will keep her “crazy person” quirks, but I have a very strong feeling her personality won’t be exactly the same. And for this reason, I’m glad I know the original voice that told this story. It’s an entertaining, somewhat-inspirational, and very hilarious read.

Julie & Julia will be released in trade paperback on July 1 by Hachette Book Group.

Check out the film-adaptation starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep, in theaters August 7th.


bermudaonion said…

I listened to the audio version of this book and just loved it. I'm anxious to see the movie now.

Salvatore said…

Interesting. That's a shame that she doesn't really go into the cooking, which would probably be the only thing that I actually cared about in this. To be honest, I think my interest in the Julie/Julia story is the Julia Child bit…and I've already read 'My Life in France'. But good to know. I may see the film, just to be entertained by that wily Meryl Streep and her what looks to be amazing performance as Ms Child.

Kari said…

Oh Sal, she does go into the cooking, quite a bit. I just hate cooking, so I was glad that wasn't the ONLY focus on the book. She creates a good balance between cooking details and everything else.

I bet they add a lot of Julia Child focus for the movie. Her presence is minimal in the book (other than an overarching "Julia Child is inspiration" theme).

Salvatore said…

haha Interesting. I think the film might be the better choice for me.

That's kind of sad though that the author has a profane tongue and a biting look at the world. I'm sure Ms Ephron has dolled it up for Hollywood, as you suggest.

colin said…


No matter how accurate Streep's performance is Aykroyd nailed it 30 years ago.

Salvatore said…

haha, very true. Well that saves me a trip to the movies then.

Sheila (bookjourney) said…

This is still in my TBR pile and I want to read it and then go see the movie! I have to hurry!