As we walked out of a noon showing of Julie and Julia, my husband asked me if I had been the film’s writer, would I have included the little bit about what Julila Child thought about Julie’s blog. Especially since we don’t find out. And since it leads to Julie’s not meeting Child. Ever. So what did that add to the film?
Along the road of thought, I did wonder what Julia Child thought of Julie’s Blog ‘The Julie/Julia Project‘ and found a couple of valuable links. The first: ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking Reaches Young Readers Again‘
“[Judith] Jones [book editor] says Child did not approve of Powell’s cook-every-recipe-in-one-year project. The editor and author read Powell’s blog together (Julie and Julia was published a year after Child’s 2004 death). “Julia said, ‘I don’t think she’s a serious cook.’ ” Jones thinks there was a generational difference between Powell and Child. “Flinging around four-letter words when cooking isn’t attractive, to me or Julia. She didn’t want to endorse it. What came through on the blog was somebody who was doing it almost for the sake of a stunt. She would never really describe the end results, how delicious it was, and what she learned. Julia didn’t like what she called ‘the flimsies.’ She didn’t suffer fools, if you know what I mean.”
The second is ‘The St. Petersburg Times‘ which quotes Sara Moulton for whom Child was both friend and mentor, re: the blog, ‘She hated it’. The word ‘gimmicky’ comes up in the conversation (if not in the film). Says Moulton:
“She did not want people making money off her name,” Moulton says. “She was very pure about that. She just didn’t believe in that kind of commercialism.” Moulton suspects Child would be horrified by the Food Network and the chefs there and elsewhere with lines of cookware and food.
Child never wrote an endorsement for someone else’s cookbook and even fought a group of Santa Barbara, Calif., rosarians that wanted to name a rose after her, Moulton says.
They succeeded though, and the Julia Child Rose blooms in a lovely butter-gold.
“The thing about Julia that was really great was that she knew who she was and she knew what she wanted”
Which is probably why the film didn’t want to quote Child because it would have been reductive, in a way. So the question is, why mention at all Julia’s failure to respond?
I think I know: Julia Child is famous. She is an icon. Julie links her life strategy to the icon. Julie was not a friend of Child. But she drew strength from the icon. To have approval from Child would have made the blog adventure about wanting to meet Child. Which it is not. The adventure is about about becoming Julie.
Julia Child, then, was more an icon to which Julie sacrificed herself in order that she become a better person. Hence, in a Child museum, Julie leaves a token at the foot of Child’s picture: not a candle but a pound of butter.
By the end of the blog, Julie has transformed her life, left her job, become a writer and has had a book turned into a film.
So, to answer my husband’s question, yes. By keeping the bit in the film the writer keeps our eye on the target.