Julie and Julia. The Grove. 8/10/09.
I saw Julie and Julia last night, and I enjoyed it quite a bit, but this post is really just as much inspired by this Daily Beast article and the Jezebel response to it that I just happened upon. Mostly, I want to point out that these articles are appropriating terms of romance to describe professional relationships and envy, which are strange usages of terms like "lust" and "crush." Female-female relationships can slip between homosexuality and homosociality, but it seems to me that both of these articles de-eroticize the "girl crush" in really unfortunate ways. For me at least, there is a difference between the women I admire because I want to be like them and the women I admire and might want to sleep with, even if that difference might occasionally be slippery, too. Both of these articles make me wonder if and where attraction might be in the relationships and whether the use of terms like "crush" might have something to say about the paucity of models for female friendship and mentorship.
Which brings me to Julie and Julia. I'm only talking about the film here, not the book or the blog, and certainly not the person, but one thing that I found particularly striking about the film was its portrayal of female relationships. At one point (and this isn't an exact quote), Julie asks, 'aren't you supposed to like your friends'? Julie's relationships in the film with other people, particularly other women, were distant, strained, impoverished. There were those three condescending women she had lunch with, whose relationship was never even explained. I guess they were supposed to be friends, but they didn't seem to even like each other.
In contrast, there was Julie's relationship with Julia Child, which bordered on the obsessive. Was this a "girl crush?" Probably not in the way Doree Shafrir describes it and probably not in a romantic way, and yet the relationship in Julie's head was the only well-defined female-female relationship in Julie's part of the movie. She had some dinner guests, a mother in the form of answering machine voice, and a woman she occasionally high-fived across cubicle walls. There were occasional scenes with friend to whom she vented, but there wasn't much a sense of friendship or support. Julia had female collaborators, a pen-pal, a sister, even a female nemesis of sorts and all of those characters felt much more rich than any of the women in Julie's life.
This might be a reflection of contemporary life, in which we've lost a sense of the possibilities of female friendships that aren't superficial, obligatory, or competitive, or it might just be a part of the failure of the film to develop the character of Julie Powell with the depth and complexity and vibrancy that Meryl Streep's portrayal of Julia Child had, both of which I believe are problems.
Let me be clear that I really did enjoy the film Julie and Julia, but I also felt that it suffered from a generation gap. Amy Adams' Powell seems as so much less interesting than Julia Child, but that is at least partially because I don't think writer/director Nora Ephron really understood (or liked) the character. Powell is given long, boring scenes about what a blog is and how to start one that may be necessary if your intended audience is over sixty, but that seem incredibly simplistic and alienating to an audience of Julie's contemporaries. I find this LA Times article particularly illuminating in its discussion toward the end of the article about how Ephron had trouble "creating tension within Powell's narrative"; that failure is apparent onscreen in the difficulty I had liking or identifying with the character. I feel that there must be a way to have made Julie's quirkiness and affectations endearing, but the film portrayed her as self-centered and helpless instead. Again, I wonder if this is a reflection on the images and possibilities for contemporary women, or just a slight misstep. Any thoughts or insight would be welcome.
Either way, I very much recommend the film, but with the caveat that the portrayals of Julie Powell or contemporary female relationships are not why I recommend it. Go for the food, the cooking, and Meryl as Julia. Go for the fact that it's a movie about women, for once. I definitely enjoyed the film, and left the theater discussing dessert recipes with friends, and that in itself is a wonderful thing. Perhaps, even if this isn't a film that portrays non-competitive contemporary female relationships, it can be a film that helps build some.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Julie and Julia. The Grove. 8/10/09.
Posted by Violet Vixen at 3:45 PM