Friday, August 14, 2009

A Chick Flick?

I took my mother to see Julie and Julia today. It was a delightful movie that some will dismiss as merely a "Chick Flick". While it definitely targets a female audience, there are moments worth savoring by both sexes.

The story holds no genuine surprises or twists, it is simply a nice, gentle, enjoyable way to spend a summer afternoon. The film follows Julia Child during the post-war years, before her husband retired from Foreign Service (State Departments) postings abroad and they moved to Massachusetts. At the same time it interweaves with Julia's story, the story of Julie Powell. Julie is a young married woman who is down on herself for her failure to publish her novel and picks up the project of cooking through Mastering the Art of French Cooking and blogging about it as a writing project. Her adventures in this cooking endeavour, in a tiny NYC apartment are fun -- and the "lobster" scene is even better than the clip of it seen in the ads for the movie. The switches between Julie and Julia are occasionally a bit rough, but generally well-timed.

The true delight of the movie, however, is Meryl Streep as Julia Child - a delicious pleasure. I left the theatre wanting to buy the book she wrote about her years in France. And Stanley Tucci as Julia's husband, Paul, is no mere straight man to Streep's powerful Julia. Together, they make an onscreen couple who seem so comfortable with each other, exactly as a husband and wife should be. The best line of the movie is one that brings some contemporary issues into stark relief and points up the differences between Julia and Julie. Julia Child always knew, I believe, what a blessing her husband was to her. And, if the movie is true in this respect, knew how things properly go between a man and a woman. At a dinner party in their Paris apartment she turns to him at one point and says, quite simply, "What would I have done if you hadn't fallen in love with me?"

And that's really it, isn't it?

Not a great movie, nevertheless, a delightful afternoon diversion.


Jill Crum said...

Dear Kamilla,
You don't know me, however, we are acquainted through the Baylyblog. I read your comments there with great interest.
I am the mother-in-law of Michal Crum; the mother of her husband, Ben (and grandma to their two darling boys, Daniel and Zion).
Thank you for your recent blessing in response to Michal's posting on that blog, "May the Crum tribe increase." That is my prayer too, that we would increase in numbers and in godliness.
Did you know that husband and I have 11 children? The three oldest sons are married and we have 5 grandchildren. We have 7 more sons,and one daughter (no, she's not the youngest--she has two younger brothers).
Anyway, I wanted you to know that I appreciated your comment.
And I hope you continue to recover from your recent surgery.
In His care,
Jill Crum

Kamilla said...


What a blessing to read your comment this morning! Thank you.


Michael said...

My wife has said [twice] she wants to see this. [Once tonight.] I didn't know anything about it, and now here it shows up again. So, I decided I'd better watch the trailer.

Odd format with two different times, then and now. Well, I should like the post-war years part, at least. I can normally handle period chick flicks.

> While it definitely targets a female audience, there are moments worth savoring by both sexes.

Plus, we guys need to encourage that wifely cooking instinct.

> The true delight of the movie, however, is Meryl Streep as Julia Child

She sure looks like she does a good job.

Thanks for the recommendation.

Fr. Bill said...

I haven't seen it yet, but plan too, mostly because of my love of Julia Child and Meryl Streep. My "exposure" to them may have more to do with my delight in them -- I know them only through their on-screen personas and work -- but from that alone, they're amazingly entertaining and skillful performers.

Ebert's review began something like "Would you like to take a 3-week bus trip sitting next to Julia Child?" I think his point is that Child is desirable in small doses (as in her television programs) but likely insufferable if one had to live with her 24/7.

Maybe so. But, I don't have to; and the one who did seems to have carried it off with admirable husbanding results.

Via Netflix you can get the very first episodes of her television programs. They are a riot!! You can watch Julia quickly master the performance-art aspects of her work, blending them with her genuinely sensible cooking skills. It was in these very early episodes where she tosses an omelet into the air and onto the floor, whence she retrieves it and has some riotous things to say about the irrelevancy of food dropped on the kitchen floor, as most folks never see the cook in the kitchen.

I suspect if I knew Streep's politics it would take me off my feed permanently; so, I keep my eyes averted from that. I'm amazed at the sheer magic with which she creates credible characters on the screen. I'm looking forward to her rendition of Child.

Maggie said...

Here from Bayly Blog (and have commented here in the past.)

I also really enjoyed "Julie and Julia" -- and left the theater excited to try some of the recipes (though not the lobster or the calf's foot).

It is always fun and kind of interesting when social conservatives and social liberals like the same things. Jane Austen and Julia Child in particular are beloved by both extremes of our polarized society. Of course, we see different things in them. For example, the Childs' marriage as portrayed in the movie struck me as remarkably modern.

Michael said...

Hello again, Maggie! We've got to stop meeting like this...

> Jane Austen and Julia Child in particular are beloved by both extremes of our polarized society.

NETFLIX was supposed to send me "Becoming Jane" yesterday. They sent "Howard's End" instead, and it wasn't even in my queue [though it was one I was interested in seeing, due to enjoying other Merchant-Ivory films, especially "The White Countess" starring the late Natasha Richardson, along with her mother and aunt, Vanessa and Lynn Regrave].

Anyway, so what do liberals like about Jane Austen? It's good literature, sure, but all that patriarchalism and frivolous femininity must really grate on them.

Watching "Howard's End" last night, it was interesting hearing Vanessa Redgrave's character saying she was glad she didn't have to worry about voting. Emma Thompson's character told her sister she was married now and had to side with her husband on a certain matter.

> Of course, we see different things in them.

I'm sure that's true! Men and women would see different things, too.

> For example, the Childs' marriage as portrayed in the movie struck me as remarkably modern.

I haven't seen the movie, yet, and don't know anything about the real couple's relationship, but I would suspect it would partly appear modern because it was interpreted by moderns for a modern audience.


Michael said...

I don't know if anybody watches foreign language movies, but I've watched a couple through the free, instant-viewing feature of Netflix.

Two German WWII ones I liked which had heroic female figures were:

Sophie Scholl: The Final Days


These were real life stories. No Jane Austen fluff here, just courage and grit.

Sophie Scholl was a university student executed with her brother and others by the Nazis for handing out subversive literature on campus at the University of Munich.

Wikipedia says: "Her firm Christian belief in God and in every human being's essential dignity formed her basis for resisting Nazi ideology."

Watch the trailer, don't skip the Intro.

Rosenstrasse is about German women who were married to Jewish men, and how they stood up for their husbands when they were rounded up.

There is a trailer for it at Netflix.

The one has a happier ending than the other. Both really make you think what's important when evil is unleashed and you have to choose whether you are going to stand up against it.

Fr. Bill said...

From video to text ...

Netflix has a trio of BBC renditions of three Dorothy Sayers novels featuring Lord Peter Wimsey as he courts Harriet Vane. They're fabulous!

And, so, we have begun reading Sayers' work featuring Lord Peter. Only a few feature Harriet as well. We're just finishing Busman's Honeymoon, which Sayers subtitled "A Love Story with Detective Interruptions." It tells the story of Lord Peter's and Lady Peter's wedding and honeymoon.

What's remarkable about the novel is the way Sayers explores in her characters how two individuals with default egalitarian views of themselves confront and accomodate themselves to the patriarchal realities of the universe. Peter has to step up to the plate as a husband (something a single middle-aged man simply cannot do with mistresses) while Vane learns not only how to adopt a wifely posture toward her husband (as his helper, not he as hers) but how rapturously delightful such a posture turns out to be.

Maggie, I suspect you'd find Lord Peter's and Lady Peter's marriage quite modern. Sayers would tell you it's quite Christian, and Biblical patriarchalists would agree with her (at least, this one does).

Kamilla said...

Michael - take my advice and take your good wife to this movie. I think you both will enjoy it.

Bill - I second your recommendation of the DLS videos. Busman's honeymoon is my favorite, followed closely by Gaudy night, though I prefer the novels to the videos.

Maggie, the Child's marriage did seem modern in some respects, but remarkably "traditional" in the bedrock sexual differences displayed. Julia's coyness about Paul's lunchtime naps being one example. Another is the dinner party scene, when Julia and Paul speak to each other as if they are the only ones in the room, even though the are addressing their guests. If you see it again, pay particular attention to that scene, especially Julia's line which I mention in my review. That scene shows their marriage to be anything but modern.

By the way, it's good to see you again!


Michael said...

In case anyone is interested, I discovered you can watch the whole movie "Sophie Scholl: The final Days" on YouTube in 12 segments of about 10 minutes each, and the quality is quite good for YouTube.

Not exactly a chick flick, but a chick is the heroine. At least you can decide if it is worthwhile without shelling out any cash, if you don't have Netflix.

I'll have to check into those DLS movies -- thanks for the tip.

Maggie said...

Sorry, I didn't mean to abandon the thread. Hope it is not too late to comment.


Yep, we feminists love our Jane Austen! I don't see Jane Austen as containing much "frivolous femininity." In that era and for Austen's heroines in particular, the marriage market (and the attendant balls, and socializing) was anyting but frivolous. Austen's characters were often at risk of lifelong poverty and humiliation if they didn't play their cards right -- and that harsh fact comes through despite her often light-hearted and humorous tone. To the extent frivolous femininity appears, Austen is harshly critical in her portrayals of those women and girls who lack seriousness and sense. She is especially hard on
mothers who are overly absorbed in their children at the expense of other interests and topics of conversation.

And Austen is hardly a cheerleader for the patriarchy. The pompous and ridiculous character of Mr. Collins in "Pride and Prejudice" is nothing if not an outright mockery of patriarchy. This is a man who smugly congratulates himself on his willingness to marry either of the Bennet sisters, whom he perceives as having little choice given the fact that, otherwise, they and their mother and siblings will be turned out of their house when their father dies. Indeed, as mentioned above, the dark downside of patriarchy is a subtext of all Austen's novels.

(I will grant that in her later years, Austen became more conservative. She exchanges her youthful irreverence for priggishness in "Mansfield Park.")

Coincidentally, I just watched "Howard's End" this weekend after many years. I loved it so much when it came out around 1992 that I returned to the theater over and over again to watch it. I have no objection whatsoever to the portrayals of Victorian ladies who were apathetic about suffrage, or those who tried to appease pompous and emotionally stunted husbands. (Again, I am not sure that this portrayal was meant to be flattering to patriarchal mores.)

And I saw Sophie Scholl: The Final Days too and loved it!!! (Yep, we watch a lot of movies in our house) Seems like you and I have the same tastes -- who would have guessed?

Fr. Bill -- Thanks to you, I am finally putting Sayers on my list.

Kamilla, Hmmm . . . Still skeptical, but "food" for thought when I see the movie again on DVD. Thanks for the welcome and for putting up with me!

Maggie said...

In fairness, Sophie Scholl, while indeed a chick heroine, performed her acts of bravery along with several young men, who deserve tribute as well.

One amazing aspect of that movie is that much of the script was taken from actual transcripts of Sophie's interrogation and trial.

Now I feel obligated to make some movie recommendations. Right now we are going through an old western faze (admittedly at my husband's behest). Much to my surprise, I am thoroughly enjoying the old John Ford/John Wayne flicks like "Stagecoach," "Fort Apache," and "The Searchers." Those are also movies I would expect to be appealing to conservatives -- but with some surprising appeals to liberals as well. "Fort Apache" in particular expresses a surprising amount of ambivalence about the American past for a movie made right after World War II.

Kamilla said...


Since you mentioned John Ford movies, I have an article link:

I'm sorry, I don't know if I can do hot links in comments here. That's an article Tony Esolen wrote for Inside Catholic. Tony understands "sex", men and women better than just about anyone walking the earth these days. I think you'll enjoy the article, even if you don't agree with it.


Maggie said...


Thank you for the link to the article, which was indeed enjoyable.

I agree that gender equality is not always relevant to the great themes of literature. (Neither is capitalism, for that matter, or Christianity, or scientific rationalism, or any number of other important human movements.) There are certain universal themes that we all have to deal with regardless of our political or religious orientation -- family, children, fate, character, our smallness in the face of a vast world, freedom or lack thereof, sex, death, love, hate, etc. etc.

The author's discussion of music seems wholly subjective. We are actually living in an age when people are more passionate about music than ever. American music --blues, rock, jazz, gospel, and country -- has taken the world by storm over the last 50-80 years. I find it hard to write off people's strong attachment to this stuff as mere entertainment.

Naturally, I diverge from the author's opinion that only the religious can appreciate "transcendence" and "mystery."

Again, thanks for the link!