Tonight is my 11th wedding anniversary and my wife and I actually got to celebrate thanks to a conveniently available babysitter. After reading the favorable N.Y. Times review we decided to see Julie & Julia. It is a lovely movie, life-affirming, funny and romantic. In short, it’s everything most other Hollywood films are not these days.
It’s commonplace to say this after every Meryl Streep performance, but she is simply amazing. My wife said she “inhabited” the role, and she’s right. But she did something more than that: she made Julia bigger than life. She made her a presence, a vital force of nature. There are scenes of utter hilarity like when the tall, gangly Julia meets her sister at a Paris railroad station, where we see that the latter is even taller than Julia! In the next scene, we see the sister marry a man who is even shorter than Julia’s relatively short husband. The scene in which the two dance is utterly comic and human at the same time. Here are two people who are physical opposites and they literally don’t care. Their joy overcomes anything that might come between them.
When I first read Amanda Hesser’s profile of Julie Powell during her stint cooking through the recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I was smitten. The idea that a NYC resident of modest means was cooking French meals in honor of the great Julia Child in the former’s tiny apartment kitchen was strikingly original and utterly charming. I was less happy when Powell began writing for the Times Dining section and got off a cheap shot against the organic food movement, accusing it of elitism, classism, snobism and a few other isms to boot.
But the Powell-NYC section of the movie is almost as captivating as the Child section. I especially like the scenes in which Powell and her husband discuss her food blog which chronicles her culinary project. They both convey the power of the blog to move perfect strangers and make the world a slightly better, less isolating place; and they document the ways in which blogging can distance the blogger from those physically closest to him or her: especially family. The scene in which Powell’s husband gives up in disgust, tells her how sick he is of the blog and the food fetish with Child’s recipes, is moving. My wife and I were giving each other gentle shoves as each character recited our particular perspective in this debate.
After the movie, we ate at Poppy, a Seattle thali restaurant, where chef Jerry Traunfeld (formerly of the Herb Farm) prepares an Indian-Seattle fusion menu. The small dishes are almost uniformly superb. My wife had Denver Wagyu beef and I, Neah Bay baked salmon. Both were incredibly tender and succulent. The accompanying plates of vegetables and other condiments were wonderful. Highly recommended.