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"How surreal must this be for you?"
In the last month or so, as the hoopla surrounding the upcoming release of the movie Julie & Julia (based on both my memoir of the same name and Julia Child and Alex Prud'homme's My Life in France) has taken over my life, this has become the single question I am asked most often, now on a daily basis. My answer is, usually, "Yep. Pretty crazy." That seems the most diplomatic thing to say, not to mention the simplest. I'm not lying--it is surreal, the whole thing. But the truth is more complicated than what can be evoked by one overused adjective.
The truth is that I've had a movie made about me--or, rather, a version of me that's been made up by a very famous and accomplished person I've met only a handful of times--and I find the whole thing thrilling but also occasionally upsetting and hard to come to terms with. Clearly, one cannot complain about a movie based (in part, anyway) on one's very first book, at least not without coming off as hideously ungrateful. A movie written and directed by Nora Ephron. Starring Meryl Streep, for cripes' sake. There is no bad here. And I'm not--complaining, that is. In any way, shape, or form.
The "Julie Powell" of Julie & Julia: The Movie! has things to teach me, and the lessons are not all easy ones.
That said, I have seen the movie six times now, and there are things about it that scare me a little. The "Julie Powell" of Julie & Julia: The Movie! has things to teach me, and the lessons are not all easy ones.
Ephron's Julie, adorably depicted by Amy Adams, shares with me some traits, history, and relationships, but is emphatically not me. For one thing, I was never editor of the Amherst College literary magazine when I was there. I do not have friends buying up parcels of Manhattan real estate or writing Showtime-series-inspiring blogs about having sex with billionaires in private jets. I did not start a blog to get a book deal--people didn't do that in 2002. I have never dressed up as Julia Child, and I hate Dean & DeLuca.
Ephron's Julie is not particularly funny--she is instead a person to whom funny things happen--whereas one of the great discoveries of my year cooking through Julia Child's marvelous, world-changing book and writing about it was that I could develop a voice people found engaging and humorous. (Possibly the greatest exchange of that entire year--Me: "I never realized I was funny before!" My mom: "I know--neither did I!")
Where things get a little fuzzier, and where the history gets possibly a tad revisionist, is the whole narcissism thing. Nora (Is it strange that I'm referring to this famous powerhouse of a woman I barely know as "Nora"? Probably....) very smartly brings up the subject of blogging as extreme self-absorption. Every time I watch the scene in which Ephron's Eric Powell (played, spot-on, by Chris Messina) calls out Ephron's Julie Powell on her relentless self-involvement, as exemplified by her breakdown over the failure of Judith Jones to come over to her house and give her a book deal, I cringe. "I wasn't like that!" I think to myself. "I was never that much of a twit!"