The Indiscreet Charmlessness of the Bourgeoisie

I just watched Julie and Julia. Unlike (seemingly) everybody else, I was not charmed in the slightest by this solipsistic, inconsequential and irritating paean to bourgeois food fetishism. It certainly wasn’t the acting – both lead roles (Meryl Streep and Amy Adams) were remarkably convincing, and Stanley Tucci was excellent as Julia’s husband Paul. The characters themselves just infuriated me, as did so much of the subject matter. Julia was, I suppose, interesting in that she signified something of a feminist vanguard, but she was also completely over-the-top, a bit deranged and annoying – I wanted her to pipe down every time she wailed, snorted and trilled. Julie was a total narcissist, weaving portentous claptrap out of her second-hand recipe ‘adventure’ and her wet lettuce of a husband needed a damned good thrashing. The odd thing was, they actually say all this in the film. Julie’s husband is right when he says it’s just a blog, and things could be worse, and there’s more to life etc – but then the whole thing is transformed into a typical Hollywood ‘learning and growing’ experience. Also I am instinctively repelled by near-orgasmic fawning over food. I like to cook, maybe I even love to cook, but seeing people on tiptoes squealing in delight over a spoonful of gravy is guaranteed to get me annoyed – those of us who can afford to spend so much time and money on food (and I have been known to spend plenty of time and money on making a bit of grub) should show a little humility, and more importantly, some perspective. While Julia was dreaming up ways of bringing French cuisine to American housewives, Britain was still under a strict rationing regime. Never mind the lengths people were having to go to post-WWII outside Western Europe and North America. Just saying.

Overall, I found the story charmless precisely because so much is made of what is at heart just the story of another thirty year old trying to stave off irrelevance (and not in a particularly interesting way). Of course, you might counter, that’s what this is too, but nobody should be making a film about it. I had no empathy for the ‘modern’ story and could only muster a passing interest in the past parallel.

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Published in: on May 27, 2010 at 5:14 am  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Read the book and loathed it, for the reasons you describe and a few more beside: I found it smug, odious, and curiously not that interested in the cooking itself, as opposed to the project and the attention she got for it.

    Repulsively she’s since written a ‘learning and growing’ memoir about getting divorced from the long-suffering husband of
    b Julie and Julia:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/mar/13/john-terry-ashley-cole-tiger-woods-me

    • Oh dear, some bits of that article are quite repellent. Though kudos to her for including the insults – I particularly like the visceral feel of “soiled, narcissistic whore”! Crikey.

  2. But I think only a total narcissist could post that while feeling, in some way, self-congratulatory at her self-lacerating honesty. (There is an awful lot of this about in the Guardian at the moment, mostly by American women writers – cf also Lionel Shriver a couple of months ago on how she neglected a friend who was dying of cancer, but at least she’s, like, HONEST about it, and has learned from it).

    • Ha! Yes, that’s the last redoubt of the total git isn’t it? “At least I am *honest* about it!” and also the assumption that because they feel bad (or maybe not even that, maybe just that they have ‘suffered’ some criticism), that they must have learned from it!

  3. Exactly. A friend who had been brought up a very strict Catholic once said, a propos of a mutual friend who was prone to doing stupid things and then wallowing in guilt about it, that admitting guilt isn’t enough, in Catholic practice. You have to have a sincere intention to make amends, otherwise your admission of guilt in the confession is worthless.

    cf also admitting guilt and then saying that you think it’s made you a better/wiser/honester person.


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