("Taking It Home" is an alternative review style in which I share my thoughts on a movie's themes and how they may relate to my life, while focusing less on the acting, writing, technical aspects, or even plot of the film. It's a collection of the ideas I took home, "because the movie experience shouldn't end in the theater".)
“...the first Hollywood movie to have sprung from a blog, which in some sense makes it part of blogging history." - NYT
Julie & Julia, the surprisingly enjoyable new movie that's sure to end up one of 2009's biggest hits among women, is about blogging. Yes, blogging. And cooking, to be fair, but mostly blogging. More on that in a second.
Prior to this movie I knew little about Julia Child and even less (read: zero) about Julie Powell, the New York cubicle rat turned amateur cook turned blogger turned author. I didn't know, for example, that Julia Child didn't start cooking until well into adulthood, or that it took her years to gain any respect in the cooking world, or even that she was American (hearing her kooky voice all these years I guess I just assumed she was British). To dunces like me, Julie & Julia will provide an amusing and entertaining introduction to Julia Child. To her devotees, it will be a delight; Meryl Streep predictably, effortlessly succeeds in yet another outstanding performance that will no doubt send women of all ages whooping and hooting on the way out of theaters. Incidentally, they'll be headed directly to the nearest restaurant with everybody else, if not straight home to their kitchens.
As enjoyable as the movie may be due to copious shots of food with flair, there's a flavor in Julie & Julia that you can't fully taste unless you've had the opportunity to acquire it: the sometimes bitter swill of blogging frustration. I can't describe how differently I would have seen this film had it come out two summers ago, before I began spewing forth at Getafilm. Seeing it now, however, I found it hilariously encouraging to watch Julie Powell (Amy Adams) experience the joys of blogging alongside The Joy of Cooking, from her decision to start a blog to the excitement of receiving her first comments, from the pressure of posting regularly to the difficult decisions around disclosing personal information. It was a great deal of peculiar fun to see that experience on film, maybe doubly so since my blog happens to focus on film. I have to think other bloggers would agree, and for that aspect of Julie & Julia alone I would be anxious to recommend it.
But there's another side to the movie, and to blogging, that deserves to be seen on a massive multiplex screen: the harsh reality that "making it" (however you define "it") through blogging can be more difficult than deboning a duck. Like most people, Powell began her blog, The Julie/Julia Project, as a simple hobby, a way to keep herself accountable to a real-world challenge while connecting with others interested in that challenge. What was interesting about her blog, and what probably separates it from most (including mine), is that she had a clearly defined project that was only meant to "last" a year - the 365 days in which she would complete 524 recipes. She attracted readers quickly (surprisingly quickly, I might add), and eventually gained several thousand regulars who would comment and encourage her along the way. It was all innocent, self-fulfilling fun, but the real catalyst was this New York Times article that was published near the end of her project (it being 2003, the term "Web log" was still necessary), which would change her life forever...or at least for a while.
Amy Adams as Julie Powell...I'm not giving anything away, of course, since the movie itself could not exist without Powell's subsequent book, "Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen". She is releasing a second book, "Cleaving: a Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession", upon the release of Julie & Julia, and it's safe to assume she's receiving some royalties from selling the rights to her story to Columbia Pictures. But what's next? How long can you ride a wave of popularity based on a moment-in-time phenomenon? For another example, consider the case of Christian Lander, who turned "Stuff White People Like" into a book worth a few hundred thousand dollars, and who is now the host of an online TV show (is that an oxymoron?...anyway, it's some kind of new media phenomenon).
In light of Powell's success, then, Julie & Julia can be seen as not just the first movie created by a blog, and not just the first movie about blogging, but the most inspirational movie about blogging as well, since millions of bloggers (and there are millions of us) will no doubt leave the theater thinking, "What if...?".
But unless you start blogging with the sole intent of turning it into a business, or unless you have an amazing stroke of PR luck (Powell), or unless you have some great idea that will catch the wave of pop culture at just the right time (Lander), or unless you are willing and able to devote 40+ hours a week to your blog, well there's really no way to know where your blog will end up, and even then how long it will take. I remember reading a NYT article a few weeks ago, "When the Thrill of Blogging is Gone", which cited a 2008 Technorati survey as follows: "...only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to lie fallow on the Web, where they become public remnants of a dream — or at least an ambition — unfulfilled."
Depending on your goals, that's a reality check that can leave you with some serious indigestion. See Julie & Julia and call me in the morning.
What did you take home?