03 July 2010

The Case of the Book That Ruined the Movie

Several months ago, before reading any reviews, I picked up the book Julie and Julia. Eighty pages later, I put it right back down again because I found the voice brought to life by Julie Powell's words to be annoying beyond mere snarkiness. I could care less about the vulgarities with which she peppers her prose. It was her attitude toward her job (talking to the families of 9/11 victims) and everything else that eventually turned me off before I could finish the book.

I finally got around to watching the movie Julie and Julia this week. Even though the commercials were charming, the memory of how much I dislike Powell's writing made it difficult for me to rent the film. Eventually, the reviews of Meryl Streep's and Amy Adams' performances won me over and I watched it when it showed up on the Netflix Instant Streaming service.

In a nutshell, I should have watched the film sooner. In the time since the film was first released, I have since read scathing reviews of the book and Powell's subsequent book, Cleaving. I've also read comments left on book blogs by people who had been readers of Powell's original blog until they actually corresponded with her and found her rude. All of this was swimming around in my head as I watched the movie. Amy Adams -- an actress that I found charming in this and her previous film Enchanted -- could not wash away the bad taste I get in my mouth every time I think of Julie Powell now. At the end of the film, I found myself wishing that Meryl Streep had done a movie about Julia Child without all the "Julie" bits.

This is the first time that having read the book has ruined a film for me. There are rare occasions where the movie has included everything I remember, like The Color Purple. There are even times where I can appreciate the screen adaptation as a separate entity that I enjoy equally, as with the TV series True Blood. This is the first time that I wish I could un-read everything by and about Julie Powell and enjoy the film on its own merits.

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