REVIEW : Two things I learned from the film Julie and Julia.

Julie & Julia is a 2009 film with storylines about two different women and how their lives intersect. Julie is a New Yorker in the present and her life is (she feels) blah. Her friends’ careers are taking off and she needs a purpose to throw herself into; something to change up the monotony and dead-end feeling of her life. She finds it in Julia Childs, inimitable culinary legend from the 1950s. Julie sets up a blog and resolves to go through Julia’s 1961 magnum opus, Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year. And blog about it.

The film cuts back and forth between the challenges each woman faces in her own era and the relationships they have with those close to them, most significantly their husbands. It’s a sweet, funny, and inspiring little film that was a treat to watch for the second time - but for the first with our kids.

A couple thoughts:

Illustration of Julia Child and Julie Powell.

I’m going to go on a tangent here about screen time.

It’s not a kids film. It’s PG-13; a rating designation that means almost nothing anymore except to indicate that there probably won’t be profane rants every ninety seconds, blood-spurting limb severing or bone shattering, or full-on human nakedness.

Julie & Julia has profanity. Even a single fuck which was used exquisitely well as punctuation at a perfect moment, a moment that Becca and I chuckled heartily about. I hit pause, as I often do, and we had a short family dialog about what is considered bad language.That’s another tangent off this tangent, but the short version is: yes, there are words that we don’t generally use and yes, they are perhaps sometimes appropriate and vibrant in certain situations at some point, but out of respect for what is considered appropriate within society and culture at a certain point we will choose to not use certain words, for the most part.

The big idea that Becca and I hold is that respect is at the center of most healthy and rich relationships and it is more important to be respectful with our actions, tones, and ways of interacting with one another than to get fucking hung up on a single stupid word that has the stench of “badness” on it. Anyway. Respect encompasses so much more than dogmatic adherence to not uttering certain words.

Tangent off the tangent:
Is is okay if I start swearing when I’m 13?
one child asked.

Julie & Julia has some profanity. And some mild sexual content and innuendos. Ready for another tangent? Yes, there are some sexual references - and I hit pause a few other times. A big part of the story is about the relationships Julie and Julia have with their respective spouses. There are ups and downs and funny times and difficult times and they get angry and discouraged and sometimes say mean things to each other…but there’s also a lot of love, support, forgiveness, and genuinely adorable moments that help to depict beautiful and ragged relationships that…I think isn’t a bad thing to see. Because the most beautiful relationships aren’t saccharine sweet. There’s still plenty of sweet. But relationships are rich dish with a lot of ingredients.

So when I hear the phrase “how much screen time do you let your child have?,” that’s a tough question to answer. We don’t clock it. When they need computers or tablets or phones to look up stuff about Greek mythology or YouTube tutorials on baking and something about why Marvel and Sony can’t agree to share Spider-Man, or even play a game once in a while…I don’t know, they do it. We watch movies together, we learn together, we make stuff together, and not to sound all up on a high high horse, but we generally trust them to self-regulate to a large extent with using “screens.” I’m not worried about their heads getting buried or their eyes getting burned. Much of our life is spent outside or in books or in making art and music…I’m not overly concerned about the balance tipping.

We love watching movies together. It’s a bonding and binding family experience. Sometimes it takes multiple nights and a lot of pausing and mini-conversations to get through, but cinema, like hiking and the outdoors or music & art or the ritual of family worship is something important and fundamental. It brings us together, even when the content is not necessarily completely for every age group.

It brings us together.

Duck bone, or, how to bone a duck.

Much as I enjoy the process of watching people cook, bake, and make food…my interest in remaining vegetarian was not diluted after watching this again.

Regarding inspiration.

If you haven’t seen it, there is a minor spoiler coming up. It won’t completely ruin things if you haven’t seen it, but fair warning nonetheless.

Here it is: there’s a point toward the end where Julie is devastated because a reporter calls and asks her to comment about 90-year old Julia Child not liking her project.

It’s a moment in the film that stands out, but is never really resolved. Becca dug up an article written much later by Julie addressing it. Not going to go into detail, but it is rather beautiful. And the gist of it is this. I am going to paraphrase.

The basic idea of what Julie wrote is that Julia Child inspired her and that nothing could take away from that. Regardless of how this icon, this towering figure and inspirational source might have responded to Julie’s year-long project…it was, in the end, irrelevant. Julia Child’s’ life was spent doing things her own way, on her own terms, being herself, breaking conventions…but she wasn’t a saint.

Julie’s point was that Julia inspired her. Julia may not have been inspired by her, by Julie…but it didn’t matter. It didn’t change Julie’s adoration or respect for the way in which Julia had changed and inspired her life.

That’s big. It’s a little thing, but applicable to so much. We live in an age of celebrity and idol worship, so this decade-ago flick already seems quaint and old-fashioned in some ways. Some might think that this is no astounding revelation, and maybe those of you thinking so are correct. All of us have heroes or idols or icons we admire or idolize, at this point in history more than ever. But what happens when they fail us, or when they respond in ways that might be hurtful?

Sidenote: I will not get into what Julia apparently thought of Julie’s blog. Sounds like miscommunication by a third party reporter to begin with, and miscommunication layered upon misunderstanding seasoned with little context and a bit of indifference, as opposed to dislike.

The point is that Julie didn’t let her self-worth or the value of her project be determined by her hero’s (apparent) response to it.

She let it be what it was. She accepted the beautiful inspiration she gained from Julia, and then let it be.

I like that. And found it inspiring.

The cooking I do at this point is more of the survival variety for four children and two parents, most of whom have voracious (vegetarian) appetites. I will not likely be taking a similar run-through of Mastering the Art of French Cooking

…but I’m ready to get our kids back in the kitchen baking some cookies. Then we can scrump them down with almond milk while watching Cast Away…