Julia, Adam, and, Summer

Some quick thoughts on some of the movies I’ve seen recently:

  • Via MaryAnn Johanson of the American Women Film Journalists blog, a pointer to Katha Pollitt’s insightful take on Julie & Julia and (500) Days of Summer, in which Pollitt explains that her appreciation of Julie & Julia stems in part from its rich depiction of two female characters–the famous chef Julia Child and food blogger Julie Powell–who “struggle to express their gifts through work.” And although I was left somewhat cold by the film, I liked the use of parallel editing to tell the stories of two different women who worked to find their voice in two very different eras.  Pollitt is correct to point out that it’s somewhat rare to see two career-driven female characters in the space of a single film without pitting the two of them against each other.  I’ll go ahead and add that I appear to be one of the few people who liked the Amy Adams/Julie Powell section better.  It may be an unconscious (and unfair) reflex against the Meryl Streep hype, but I also think that I related to the very specific experiences of the Adams character (Julie Powell) who discovers her voice through the online audiences who read and commented on her blog.  Given my own professional and personal trajectory of finding my book project through blogging, Powell’s story really resonated for me.
  • In the same article, Pollitt is critical of (500) Days of Summer for depicting Summer as having “all the external trappings of individuality — aloofness, a sly smile, vintage clothes and indie tastes–” while lacking any clear sense of an inner life, career ambitions, or anything else, for that matter.  She’s just there so that Tom can find his path as an architect.  I didn’t really address this point in detail in my original review, but I think Pollitt raises a valid point about the film.
  • Finally, I saw Adam last night, a passable romantic drama about Adam, an engineer with Asperger’s Syndrome, and Beth, a teacher with aspirations to become a writer of children’s books.  In our post-movie discussion, my girlfriend pointed out that the film often simplifies the range of emotional attachments that people with Asperger’s Sydrome have, and although I appreciated Hugh Dancy’s understated performance as Adam, I’m inclined to agree with Ebert that the film tried to tie “their story in too tidy a package,” falling into some of the more annoying habits of a crowd-pleasing indie.  In places, the casting was a little distracting, too, especially seeing a much older and slightly heavier Mark Linn-Baker playing a role other than the straight man on Perfect Strangers (in this case one of Adam’s bosses).  Bad 1980s sitcoms are simply too much to overcome, and as a result, I was distracted every time he was on screen.  Plus the corrupt criminal father–a good fit for Peter Gallagher–felt like it was ripped off from Say Anything.  A little too paint-by-numbers, especially for something with inide or art-house aspirations.


  1. Nels Said,

    September 13, 2009 @ 10:53 am

    Glad to hear your thoughts on the Julie side of the film. I loved both and thought they fit well together, and I’ve been one of the few not to say the Julie story should have been left out.

  2. Chuck Said,

    September 13, 2009 @ 11:04 am

    I can understand the complaints. The film did run way too long, and it’s impossible to share a screen with Meryl Streep and not feel obscured, although I think Stanley Tucci deserves a nomination for his role as Paul Child, but I think the parallel stories are essential. Showing Julia Child’s story alone would have made the film a curiosity, and I think showing Powell’s story alone would have made the film feel trite.

    Sometimes the connections felt forced, but overall, I like how the two narratives comment on each other.

  3. Dylan Said,

    September 13, 2009 @ 4:51 pm

    Re: 500 Days of Summer – It’s the Manic Pixie Dream Girl!

  4. Chuck Said,

    September 14, 2009 @ 11:33 am

    As usual, the Onion is there way before I am.

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