julie & julia

let me start by decrying the coy suggestion of intimacy/conspiracy/closeness effected by the ampersand. and by decrying, also, that the author of of the book that inspired this movie is called julie. seriously, she could have been called anything. it’s very sad for all of us that she was called julie.

i have no reason to doubt that julie powell is a perfectly decent woman. the same cannot be said for nora ephron, who makes evil movies that further deepen the mud-pond that is the woman’s movie genre and are throwbacks to the bad bad bad old days in which women, like children, were seen and not heard.

julie & julia is a sad paean to domesticity, frustrated and guilty femininity, the myth of the good husband, and the glory of (heterosexual) sex. not even meryl streep manages to do much for this deadly combo of horrors, in spite of the fact that her julia child is a profoundly dignified character. the mud is just too deep.

this is what this movie proposes to its audience:

women are very, very bored in their meaningless little jobs and meaningless little lives, because their fates — geographical, social, personal — are dictated by the jobs and social lives of their husbands, whom their are forced to follow across continents or neighborhoods. as doctors and specialists and non-specialists have been telling us from time immemorial, we need hobbies. and what better hobby that cooking, the ultimate symbol both of fulfilled domesticity and of women’s assertion of (some) domestic control. food fills the void in women’s lives, keeps their husbands (somewhat, as it turns out) happy, and is a perfect substitute for sex. with food, women can do without sex. with food, they can, and will, resist their men’s sexual entreaties. food satisfies women and, in so doing, empowers them. it’s the food they are themselves preparing. it’s masturbation to the power of ten.

the sexual power of food consists primarily in the fact that it appeases guilt. i am feeding you, am i not? what are you complaining about? didn’t you like that [french dish]? god, i’m so tired. and full. aaahhhh. i really enjoyed that [french dish]. goodnight dear.

domestic duty is satisfied, body is satiated, man stares at the ceiling while wife falls into deep, snoreless sleep.

in this case we have two different male responses to the food-instead-of-sex situation: paul, julia child’s husband, is extremely supportive, but also gets laid with extreme satisfaction. eric, julie powell’s husband, is a little supportive but he gets laid less. this leads julie to paroxysms of guilt, which she expresses in her blog by repeating ad nauseam that her husband is a saint. even he gets tired of being called a saint — fuck you and your saint shit, let’s have sex already!

in spite of her sexual passion for her husband, ephron’s julia child is strangely sexless and childlike. she’s a big, clunky, unadorned woman who fits remarkably well the movie image of the lesbian. every time she and stanley tucci get in the sack you think of the devil wears prada, in which tucci plays a sweetly gay man, and are not convinced for a second. i don’t know what nora ephron had in mind, but this is how it comes across, to me at least. tucci is much more a father figure than a romantic partner. (and then i wonder, is this wrong? bad? aren’t women mother figures to men in movies all the time? think mad men.)

but maybe the problem is that this movie suggests that women who have a singular, driving passion are by necessity sexless. which is the throwback i was mentioning above.

amy adams is awful in her movie-of-the-week sweetness and vulnerability, and the actor who plays her husband delivers each line as if he were reading from the script for the first time.

please, nora ephron, stop making movies.

2 thoughts on “julie & julia”

  1. From your mouth to her ears.

    I liked the idea of Julia, unabashedly full of appetite–but in practice the film did seem weirdly patronizing. Look at her, with her big shoulders, doing all that cooking! I kept wondering if the ampersanded JuliE wasn’t swallowing JuliA, turning a potentially quite lovely appreciation of a woman’s passions [where “woman” equals an individual defining herself] into exactly what you suggest, a smug pat mechanical (and sort of cynical) “celebration” of “women’s passions” [where “women” equals a demographic seeking some nostalgic return to the potential bliss of the domestic hetero no-microwave hearth].

  2. Love your post, Gio. Feminist film criticism is alive and kicking!

    The Ephrons have long contributed to Hollywood’s depiction of the traditional, domesticized female. Nora’s mother Phoebe, a not terribly successful Hollywood screenwriter in the 50s and 60s, co-wrote (with her husband Henry) the sequel to the original Cheaper by the Dozen, called Belles on Their Toes. Lots of babies in the Ephron portfolio.

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