Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Julie & Julia

I finally went to see “Julie & Julia” on my birthday last week. What fun! I enjoyed the multitude of articles written this summer in anticipation of the movie’s release, not only in the entertainment rags but also in the food magazines. I’m sure that many of you have seen “Julie & Julia” by now, and I’d like to offer up a few thoughts.

Obviously the film is about cooking and great food, but that’s not really the whole story. Yes, we see an enthusiastic Julia Child learning how to cook as a new bride in France, developing her skills so thoroughly that she eventually co-writes the definitive tome, Mastering The Art Of French Cooking. We also watch Julie Powell tackling an ambitious year-long project of cooking her way through MTAOFC and blogging about it. But the film isn’t just about the food. Both Julia in post-war Paris and Julie in present-day Queens begin the film rather adrift but wanting to do something meaningful. Cooking—and WRITING about the cooking—is the way in which these two women find much deeper significance in their lives while sharing their journeys with others.

Meryl Streep is amazing. Full stop. What can’t that woman do?! Not only does she capture Julia Child’s distinctive vocal inflections—right down to that kooky mellifluous warble!—her Julia is merry and bubbling over with joie de vivre. She is so compelling, with an irrepressible twinkle in her eye, and I couldn’t stop smiling every time she was on screen. I almost wish the whole movie had been about Julia, for Meryl Streep paints such an engaging portrait and I didn’t want the story to shift away from her. Instead, I think I will go reread my copy of Julia Child’s memoir, My Life In France, which I urge you all to do if you haven’t already had the pleasure.

On a personal note, I want to give a shout-out to my two friends who were actually IN the movie but whose scenes mainly ended up on the cutting room floor, unfortunately. If I were a filmmaker shooting a wedding scene requiring two beautiful violinists who also doubled on guitar, then Cenovia and Max are absolutely the two I would have picked myself. But if I’d had two such talented musicians who looked as stunning in their 1950s period costumes as these two did, I would have given them appropriate screen time! I’ll give them some blog time here instead and share a few of Cenovia’s photos from the set with you.

Don’t they look awesome?! I know I’m a tad biased because they both are my friends, but I really think Nora Ephron should have zoomed in on her musicians a bit more! Only Max is visible during the wedding scene of Julia Child’s sister, but Cenovia got to play the beautiful violin solos on the soundtrack. She sounds like a million bucks, so do make sure you listen for her the next time you see this movie.

I had such fun being on the receiving end of a multitude of texts a year ago May 14th when Cenovia and Max were filming in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. I was so curious about what they were doing, which mainly consisted of hanging around a lot while the scene was painstakingly shot. I know that this is pretty typical of being on a movie set, except that my friends got to do that while looking very glamorous in 1950s formalwear while watching Meryl Streep do her thing! 

I got frequent text updates from Cenovia saying such things as, “Meryl looks amazing, she is totally channelling Julia Child right before our eyes! … We’re right next to Stanley Tucci in the wedding scene! ...The wedding cake is from Payard, we’re hoping to sneak an extra slice!”

Naturally, Cenovia was the person with whom I had to see “Julie and Julia”, and it made it all the more fun to go on my birthday. I knew I couldn’t watch a food-oriented film without fun snacks, and while it might not have been outrageous cake from Payard, I smuggled a half-bottle of rosé wine packed in ice and some Rococo chocolate in my large handbag, ready to set us up for a decadent afternoon. Apparently great minds think alike, for Cenovia had also snuck an ice-packed German beer and more Rococo chocolate into her bag, so we had plenty of festive beverages and chocolate to last us throughout the entire movie.

It was the perfect recipe for a most delicious afternoon, quite literally. It would have been a delight had it just been a movie in which Meryl Streep played Julia Child brilliantly. But to see it with a dear friend who was involved with the movie made it all the more special, especially when her effortlessly beautiful violin playing came soaring out over the sound system. And when that happened, I was especially glad to have pretty rosé wine to raise in celebration! Happy birthday indeed…

There she is in all of her Julia Child-ness! (All photos by Cenovia or someone nearby on the movie set.)

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