Saturday, August 29, 2009

Julie and Julia

I went and saw Julie and Julia with my now on sabbatical wife yesterday. We biked up to the theater and got in about two minutes into the movie, thus possibly missing something. Overall it was a fun sweet movie.

The thing I liked the most about it was it got the little moments of publishing exactly right: The hit in the gut as you prepare to open what you're sure is going to be the umpteenth rejection for something you love. The sheer jubilation of an acceptance or seeing that first book. The little happy spurt from fan response.

Yay for all that.

The thing I liked the least about it was the perpetuation of the stereotypes of the neurotic, self-absorbed, and/or clueless writer: It had the "I'm not a writer if I'm not published" freakout. The complete clueless wild-ass-guess about typical advances. The complete lack of clue on figuring out how to deal with publishers ahead of time. Etc.

Now, those stereotypes work because an awful lot of writers are subject to one or another of them, and a lot of writers do learn about business the hard way by signing bad contracts or doing stupid things with their careers, or totally relying on the Cinderella faerie godmother mode of success to whack them upside the head with the publishing stick. At the same time it has never been easier to learn how not to do those things. There are a million and one resources on the web for learning about the business of writing and understanding what is and is not likely to happen.

Someday I would like to see an aspiring writer who has done their homework and who understands what they're getting into portrayed on the big screen. I think it would be simply lovely to see some story about the writing life that didn't rely on the same old conflicts and stresses.

Which is not to say that I didn't like the movie—I did, quite a lot, actually—just that it didn't cover a lot of new ground.


Louise said...

I felt differently about this film! I thought it was all about food--for the body, for the spirit, for the heart. The writing part seemed as idiosyncratic as nearly everything about writing (and publishing) seem to be, at least to me.

Of course, Streep's portrayal is sheer genius, as it always is. The Julie story wasn't nearly as compelling, but it was interesting, and fun. I think it's important to remember that it all happened nearly a decade ago. Web resources have expanded exponentially since then.

But mostly, as you've said, it was fun. There aren't enough movies that are really fun.

Kelly McCullough said...

Fair enough. I'm not a foodie, so that portion of the plot interested me less than the writing and book stuff. Oh, and I absolutely agree the Streep was brilliant.

Loves Pickles said...

Hmm, I must see it and weigh in on this. I started reading Julie Powell's blog after reading about it in an article in the NYT, and I identified very much with her need to do something, ANYTHING, that gave her hope and direction in her otherwise very depressing, dreary office drone life. Her humorous "everyday" writing style (which is the beauty of blogs) saved me from going completely mad in my own horrible, soul-leeching corporate office drone life. I felt this ray of hope for her as she made a book deal which was, in her case, kind of a freak accident. I also happen to love food and Julia Child, so it made the web of interest for me even greater. Since I've only read Julie Powell's blog(s) and book, I can't comment on the movie. But knowing that in this case she was not a writer by vocation, nor was she necessarily setting out to be; she was a secretary just trying to do something to brighten her days, I think it's fitting that she be portrayed as such in the movie. And OMG, can I just say, "a decade ago"?!?!??! Surely time has not flown by that fast! Oy...