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Variety announced this week that Meryl Streep has been cast as Julia Child in the film adaptation of Julie Powell's 2005 book, Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen (resubtitled My Year of Cooking Dangerously in the softcover version). The book, if you're not familiar with it, grew out of The Julie/Julia Project, Powell's Web site chronicling her efforts to cook her entire way through volume one of Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in the course of a year. Amy Adams has been cast as Powell, and, please note, Nora Ephron will be both adapting and directing.
Hmm. The mind boggles, though I have to admit up front that I haven't read the book. As with many things for which I am the spot-on demo, I've avoided it fairly thoroughly. In this case I think that's because I was getting tired of other people's versions of Julia Child. Especially since her death, the reinterpretation of Child's life is now more or less constant, and I've found myself craving facts rather than ruminations as much as possible. Julie & Julia, which, to quote Publishers Weekly, "imaginatively reconstructs episodes from Child's life in the 1940s," smelled a little like Jeanette Ferrary's M.F.K Fisher & Me, one of those diluted, I'm-borrowing-from-the-urtext-to-write-a-derivative/cozy-book books. True, Powell did research in Child's papers at the Schlesinger Library at Harvard and, yes, the point is I haven't read it. Plus I know a lot of the book's not about cooking, anyhow. Regardless, there are an awful lot of layers of media meaning here. The wire services describe the planned movie (it could just be bad translation) as "a comedy about a secretary attempting to become a master chef," but in fact it is a book about a secretary who becomes an Internet celebrity and now writes full-time, a sort of modern-day version of . . . well, Ephron. Nobody's trying to be a chef. I wonder how Ephron will skew all that.
That is: what version of Child will this film create? To serve what purposes? I can't picture Ephron handling Julia and Paul Child's years in the OSS or France with (I'll say it) much subtlety, for Ephron, while capable of low-key insight when writing about food, is often incapable of the same in the cinematic medium. And how will she handle the foodie stuff? Heartburn (Ephron screenwrote from her own novel there) excised a lot of the food talk, so it's hard to guess from that. Plus, Meryl Streep . . . well, we'll just have to see. It's so hard to picture her inhabiting Child's completely unique 6'2" WASP self with the right authority--and age; she could be either too old or too young to play the versions of Child it sounds like we might get--she was 91 when she died in 2004--but I guess that's why the lady gets the Oscars. They'll have to cast somebody shorter than normal to be Paul, though. No Tom Hanks for Nora this time.