On a rare night alone in the house, while Dave was playing a game on the other side of Norway, I decided to watch a movie from the list called “Movies That Would Cause Dave To Roll His Eyes.” The lucky winner was “Julie and Julia.”
I wasn’t enthusiastic about watching it, to be honest. Besides the fact that Meryl Streep is a goddess, nothing else really appealed to me based on the preview. I love food, of course, and I’m interested in blogging, naturally, but I’m not really interested in traditional butter/beef/sauce type of cooking and I’m not really into foodie blogs. I just hoped for a light movie to use as background noise to some house cleaning.
I’ll be the first to say it. I. Was. Wrong. If you haven’t seen it, here are the highlights:
Love, the real kind. The way the marriages of the two main characters are portrayed was really heart-warming to me. The movie revolves around two strong women who are pursuing their dreams with the support of two strong men who aren’t afraid to support them. But it isn’t all rose petals and butterflies. Julie and Eric have that fight we’ve all had, something like the “Newsflash: the world doesn’t revolve around you, husband/wife!” Julia and Paul struggle together with the issue of infertility. Both couples express love openly, give love physically, stick around through the difficult bits. It’s not that awkward, too perfect, puzzle-piece love that lots of romantic comedies try to sell to us. It’s not that mutual-loathing type of marriage that sitcoms force us to swallow so predictably. There’s a scene in the movie where Julie is blogging about a fight with her husband, realizing that he is wonderful, she is selfish and concludes that she doesn’t deserve him. And I was like “Amen, sister.” Me neither. We’re all selfish, and petty, and hard to live with sometimes. It could probably be said that no one deserves anyone, but we do it anyway, and ain’t it grand? It’s simple, and real, and imperfect, and I believed it.
Sisters, the best thing going. Although it’s only a very minor subplot in the movie, Julia Child’s relationship with her sister was really a highlight for me. When they run towards each other in the train station screaming and making a scene, I nearly shed a tear. Nothing that I know of quite matches the bonds of sisterhood, and the way they missed each other, loved each other, completed each other and made the husbands in the room seem small reminds me of the way I feel around my sister. They were like the very tall 1950’s version of some sassy Clark sisters.
Best friends with pens. Throughout the movie, Julia Child was always writing letters to her best friend Avis. Every time something exciting happened, or when she was stressed, when things were uncertain, she started hammering away on the typewriter to fill Avis in on all the dirt. I related to this feeling completely, not only because I live much too far away from my best friend Jess, but because our relationship is now based heavily on the written word. We write e-mails, short and long, out of joy and out of frustration and there is something really lovely about having the reassuring words of your best friend in print so that you can read them over and over instead of just hearing them once and trying to recall them later. How can best friends be so wise?! When it was revealed in the movie that Avis and Julia became friends through a pen-pal relationship, I started to wonder if this movie was made specifically for me by Nora Ephron. Because in addition to my friends back home, I have made some amazing friends through the internet (yes, the internet, go ahead and judge) and the backbone of our relationship was and is based on connections never made in person. Abby, Caitlin, Emily and Liz write me e-mails, send me e-cards, send me REAL cards, pack up and ship goodies and keep me sane in times of turmoil. I’ve only ever met two of them in person, but I know them better and trust them more than some ‘friends’ I’ve had since kindergarten. The sisterhood of women, facilitated by the internet, brought together some Americans, living abroad, sharing a moan, having a laugh. And what can be wrong with that?
Passion. Trust me when I tell you how cliché it is to state the following lesson from “Julie and Julia”: You have to follow your passion. BARF, right? I know, it’s such an annoying statement when you aren’t quite sure what the hell your passion is. I like writing, teaching, reading, walking dogs, taking naps…are any of these my passion? Can I cover the rent by doing any of them? Not so far. But the movie makes the point without trying to conceal the hidden meaning. Julie hated her cubicle job. But she had to work. Julia hated the normal activities of an expat housewife. But she was desperate to get out of the house. I can relate to BOTH of those feelings, and yet as the story went, both of these women found a way to live their passion. And they didn’t do it at 18, and it wasn’t as simple as a film formula montage set to 80’s music. It took the whole, entire movie and in the end showed them still working, not quite fulfilled, because who ever is really? There’s a lesson in there somewhere, and it’s not very subtle, I’m sure you can sniff it out.
What do we do now? Eventually I became completely convinced that one of my readers is telling Nora Ephron exactly my weak spots, because near the end of the movie, when both Julia and Paul Child are feeling a bit lost in life, he gets reassigned to Oslo. Whaaaaaaa? Her book isn’t published, his career in foreign service is dwindling, and she asks him “What do we do now?” And he says “Go home.” And she says “Where is home?” And I swear to you I yelled out “I HAVE NO IDEA ANYMORE!” Sigh. We talk about this sometimes, more and more as the years go on, and I can officially tell you we haven’t found our answer yet. Nor did “Julie and Julia” answer that question for me. But if you have a worry, and Meryl Streep voices it, you really do feel validated.
Overall, I give this movie two Saturday afternoon (wait, I think it was a Thursday, but who can tell anymore) thumbs up. Don’t think too much about it, just let Meryl teach you about life while images of butter melting and vegetables stewing make you feel cozy and hungry.