“Julie and Julia” (2009). Cast: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina, Linda Emond, Helen Carey, Jane Lynch, Deborah Rush, Joan Juliet Buck, Mary Lynn Rajskub; Director: Nora Ephron; Screenplay: Nora Ephron; Source Books: Julie Powell (Julie and Julia), Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme (My Life in France)
Why do we do what we do? That’s a question most of us have probably asked ourselves from time to time. In essence, it boils down to our motivations, the passions that drive us to create as law of attraction practitioners. To achieve authentic bliss in our lives, however, we must mind those motivations faithfully, following our true, belief-driven passions to achieve success. It’s a principle that’s illustrated effectively (albeit with varying degrees of engagement) in the new comedy/biopic, “Julie and Julia.”
The film presents two interwoven biographies. One is of the eccentric, iconoclastic doyenne of the culinary world, author and chef Julia Child (Meryl Streep), whose books and television shows introduced the joys of French cooking to American audiences accustomed to the blandness of processed foods. The film chronicles Julia’s initiation into the culinary world while living in Paris in the 1940s and ’50s, followed by her initial forays into publishing, the means by which she exuberantly spread the gospel of good eating in unconventional, though always-heartfelt, ways.
The second story, set in 2002-03, is that of Julie Powell (Amy Adams), an aspiring, potential-laden New York writer stuck in what she sees as a dead-end job. Julie watches life passing her by while quietly (but enviously) witnessing her friends’ successes. To alleviate the tedium and frustration of her daily routine, Julie seeks solace in one of her personal diversions, cooking. And, before long, it even provides her with a way to unlock her creative promise and escape her self-imposed funk: She decides to embark on a year-long odyssey of cooking her way through all the recipes in Julia Child’s seminal cookbook with her experiences detailed in a daily blog.
The film thus parallels the experiences of these two women and how each achieved success in their own way by minding their motivations. It’s interesting to see what motivations are actually at work in the two stories, too, for while both deal with the joy of cooking (at least superficially), underneath the culinary exploits are two very different intents, and it’s those core motivations that truly characterize the stories of the two protagonists.
For Julia, cooking was an outgrowth of her passion for eating, something for which she unapologetically acknowledged her love. Once enrolled in culinary school, she threw herself into this newfound pursuit with boundless enthusiasm and reckless abandon, the first step toward a life of myriad accomplishments and infinite self-satisfaction. Julie’s underlying motivation, however, seemed to have more to do with keeping up with her friends’ achievements than with an unconditional love of the kitchen. She thus comes across as being motivated more by a sense of competitive, ego-driven me-tooism than by an earnest passion for the gastronomic arts.
According to the law of attraction, all options are equally valid when it comes to their expression in physical reality, and that would certainly be the case with these two stories, too. However, I ask you, which one would you rather watch on the screen for two hours?
Julia’s story is so much more engaging than Julie’s that I was disappointed every time the film switched away from it. Seeing someone loving what they do, no matter what they might encounter through it (and heartily laughing off any letdowns that occur along the way), is much more compelling than watching someone trying to keep up with the Joneses (and who invariably reverts into a whiny brat whenever success eludes her). Julie’s story may be intrinsically viable, but that doesn’t mean it merits its own silver screen showcase.
As effective as both stories ultimately are in conveying their respective messages about minding one’s motivations, viewing “Julie and Julia” is still like watching two films in one – one intriguing, the other tiresome. I could have watched Meryl Streep’s phenomenal performance for hours; she captures Julia’s persona so brilliantly that it’s as if she were channeling her character’s spirit, a portrayal that’s bound to win her boatloads of acting honors and nominations come awards season. Amy Adams, one of today’s brightest young talents, does her best with what she has to work with, but, sadly, given her character’s often-sniveling nature (and her co-star’s towering portrayal), even her very capable performance is not enough to save her portion of the film.
It’s unfortunate that this film suffers from such an inherent consistency problem, but here’s my recommendation for how to view it: Savor Julia’s story for every delicious morsel it serves up. And while viewing Julie’s story, remember that leftovers have their place, too.
A lifelong movie fan and longtime student of metaphysics, free-lance writer/editor Brent Marchant is the author of Get the Picture: Conscious Creation Goes to the Movies (Moment Point Press, www.momentpoint.com). His additional writing credits include contributions to beliefnet.com and to Divine Revolution and Reality Change magazines. Brent also maintains an ongoing blog about metaphysical cinema at www.getthepicturebrentmarchant.blogspot.com. He holds a B.A. in magazine journalism from Syracuse University and resides in Chicago. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.