Sunday, January 24, 2010

Julie and Julia: Mastering the Art of Joy

After snagging a copy from the grocery store Redbox, we cozied up for a viewing of Nora Ephron's Julie and Julia last night.  I'd heard that Meryl Streep is phenomenal (again), and the movie entertaining (even for husbands).  Jorge and I haven't been feeling well the past few days, so we figured this would be a good flick to watch as we nursed ourselves back to health.  And if we happened to fall asleep in between coughing, wheezing, and cooking...well, so be it.  Julie and Julia wasn't exactly on our "must-see" list.

But despite this ho hum attitude, I found myself actually cracking a smile shortly after we hit "play."  I don't typically smile at movies.  Not because I'm not a smiler, but because I tend to take them in, digest them if you will, and determine how I feel about a movie afterwards.  I'm a processor.  I make big leaps and connections between characters and plot points and I'm the one who usually guesses the ending or thinks about why the science isn't sound.  It's difficult for me to watch a movie and just stay in the present.
But this movie is so baked with joy, it's nearly impossible NOT to be in the moment.  Joy is in the writing, it's in the acting, it's in the set design, the cinematography, it's in the food.  And wow, is there a lot of FOOD.  For those of you unfamilar with the premise of the film, it's based on Julie Powell's book which details her experiment to prepare all 536 recipes from Julia Child's Mastering The Art Of French Cooking in 365 days.  All of this adds up to mouth-watering shots that manage to make even a towering pile of onions look appetizing.

Julie's story is paralleled with Julia's, the larger-than-life woman who changed cooking in America forever.  Julia's adventures at the male-dominated French cooking school Le Cordon Bleu, her suprising, sweet and afternoon sex-filled love affair with husband Paul and the 8 year quest to publish a cookbook that teaches regular folks how to whip up delicious cuisine de France is clearly the more intriguing of the tales.  She's a tour-de-force kind of woman, the sort of spirit who eats up life while she's eating up new recipes.  She teaches us to keep going, to grab opportunity with both hands, to whisk and stir and mix with intention and laughter.  It's hard to not be inpsired by Julia Child (not to mention the way Meryl Streep makes inhabiting characters look so darn easy).

But that doesn't mean Julie's journey isn't compelling.  Mais non!  Julie captures the soul of the twenty-something malaise that haunts many of us at one time or another.  She starts off as a woman lacking purpose and direction. She's lamenting a half-finished novel that she just can't seem find time for.  She's wasting away in cubeland, answering phones to pay the bills.  She loves her husband, but they've fallen into the routine of getting by.  Julie needs an injection of something new. She finds it in her committment to cooking and blogging about it on the mighty interwebs--the land where we can all be published and anyone who stumbles across our page can be privvy to our innermost thoughts.

And by golly, her innermost thoughts catch on.  Fumbling through the recipes and her life, Julie snags a crowd of blog followers eager to find out if she'll be able to butcher a duck, poach an egg, or reconnect with her hubby.  Not only does she discover her voice, her readers, and her flair for buttery sauces, she also discovers her dream--a publishing deal and a movie contract to boot.  Not too shabby for the little blogger that could.

We need more movies like this one.  Movies that remind us that all is not lost, that hope and goodness can be found in a 1/2 cup of heavy cream, a side of bernaise sauce, a smattering of genuine persistence.  There is so much focus on tragedy and disappointment that we tend to forget just how much joy there is in this great big world.  We fail to see the beauty right in front of our faces.  But it's there.  Even when all seems lost, it is there.   And we can all be the joy-filled beings we so desperately seek.

In case you're interested in Julie's current blog, check it out here: