Sunday, August 9, 2009

Oh, the irony -- Julia CHILD was childless


Dh & I went to see "Julie & Julia" this afternoon. You may have heard about this movie already: it intercuts between the stories of Julia Child (played by Meryl Streep -- did that woman ever find a voice or accent she couldn't do??), learning to cook & writing her famous cookbook while living in France in the 1950s with her diplomat husband, and Julie Powell (played by the adorable Amy Adams), a NYC would-be writer who decided to cook all 500+ recipes in Child's cookbook in 365 days as a 30th birthday project in 2002 -- and blog about it. (I found Powell's current blog online, here.)

The movie has lots to say about food, about writing, about friendships, about marriage, and about blogging. It was fun, as a blogger, to watch Julie & her husband, Eric, setting up her blog, her disappointment when the only comments she gets are from her unsupportive mother, her chagrin when she gets called on the carpet by her boss for her blogging activities, and her excitement when a New York Times article about her blog gets her phone ringing off the hook with calls from reporters and publishers.

The big revelation of the movie for me, though (spoiler alert!), was the fact that Julia Child -- who got married in her late 30s & was in her 40s when the movie takes place -- was childless. There's a moment, relatively early in the movie, where she & her husband are sitting on a park bench in Paris, & she pauses as she watches a mother wheel a stroller past her. It's such a brief moment that I wonder if anyone who hasn't dealt with infertility would notice it. (Dh did, & squeezed my hand.)

And there's a second moment, later on, when she receives a letter from her newly married (also no spring chicken) sister and learns that she's pregnant. She starts crying as she reads the letter to her husband. As he puts his arms around her, she sobs, "I'm really very happy for her." Several people in the audience laughed at that point (?!). I, of course, was in tears.

The loving relationship between Child & her husband Paul (played by Stanley Tucci) is what really makes the movie, I think. I'd read comments in the press before about how unique it is these days to see such a loving, SENSUAL relationship onscreen these days between two middle-aged people. And it's a great thing to witness -- particularly as one half of another 40 & 50-something, childless couple who are likewise devoted to one another. ; ) The theatre wasn't packed, but it was fuller than it usually is for a Saturday matinee, and many of the people were at least as old as dh & I, if not older. I remarked to dh that the last time we we were in such a packed theatre on a Sunday afternoon (even more so, actually) was for "Mamma Mia" (also starring Streep, as well Julie Walters and Christine Baranski), and the time before that, for "Calendar Girls" with Julie Walters and Helen Mirren. There is obviously an audience out there that wants to see movies with good stories about more mature characters, like themselves. (Hello, Hollywood??)

The slightly less idyllically depicted relationship between Julie & Eric is also part of the movie, of course. They don't have children either (yet?), but then of course, they're in their early 30s (give them time...). I keep going back to Julia & Paul, who both lived well into their 90s. Both Julie & Julia tackle their respective projects (Julie her blog, Julia her cooking & eventually her cookbook) as a way to give their lives focus and meaning -- but I keep thinking about how hard it must have been for Child, a childless woman in the 1950s (a time when married women were not expected and certainly not encouraged to work), trailing along after her diplomat husband from post to post, bouncing from French classes to hat-making lessons (!) and boring bridge clubs before finally finding her life's passion.

I picked up "Julie & Julia" the book at the bookstore after the movie, and will probably add Child's "My Life in France" to my reading pile as well.

Anyone else see the movie? Read the book?

53 comments:

  1. I just went to the movie with Friend #1 (my IRL IF friend). I did notice those subtle infertility moments. I almost lost it when the letter from her sister arrived. How many times have I been in that situation, seen it on a facebook page, seen it over twitter, or being told in a text message or over the phone.

    Overall, I enjoyed the movie. I am excited to cook.

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  2. My husband, son (11 years) and duaghter (9years) saw it this afternoon. I picked up quickly how the issue of infertility was part of the marriage.

    Great movie--though I could have enjoyed it more fully without the Julie part to it--but my DH commented that the Julie part attracts a younger age group who may not have never fully appreciated Julia Child.

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  3. Thanks for the review. I couldn't decide if I was interested, but perhaps . . . .

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  4. The Food Network did a biography on Julia Child last year, so I did know that she did not have children herself. She was a wild child herself, and I don't really think she minded traveling the world with her husband, having fun while he worked. The thing I find most admirable about Julia Child is that she found a career and became famous pretty late in life. I think she was just so full of life herself, that she enjoyed every minute of it. She truly is inspirational.

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  5. That's the one film this summer I've wanted to see. There were so many amazing women who lived through WWII and married late and wound up without children. Several of them had a huge impact on my life, and shared some of Julia's joie de vivre.

    And if that movie gets people cooking--and using Julia's amazing and deeply entertaining recipes--then I'm all about it.

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  6. It sounds like a good film. It's been the feature story in several of my magazines this summer -- most of the time Meryl Streep is asked what she likes to cook for her children. (!)

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  7. Thanks for the review. The book has been sitting on my shelf for several months now, and I hadn't thought much about seeing the movie. Now I definitely want to see it (just debating whether I should read the book first).

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  8. Saw it yesterday, loved it, and cried along with Julia as she read her sister's letter to Paul.

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  9. Thanks for the review. We never go to the movies, but we might now!

    I really do believe that, even when faced with ample evidence to the contrary, some people never are able to realize that childlessness is not always a choice, resulting from some character flaw... therefore those moments you noticed in the film would go unnoticed and/or "uncomprehended" by many viewers.

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  10. I read the book a long time ago, and loved it. When I found out there was a movie, I was elated.

    Alas, now on bedrest, so I guess I have to hold off for the dvd. I can't wait!!!!

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  11. Haven't seen it yet, but now I want to even more!

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  12. I hope to watch it. I'm a big fan of Meryl Streep!
    Just readin your account already is making me tear up!

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  13. I was wondering actually about the writer. I can't remember the details now because I read the book a long time ago, but I have vague memories of her thinking about IF in the book because she has PCOS? Maybe I have that wrong?

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  14. I haven't seen it yet but have wanted to. The whole idea of cooking your way through Julia's cookbook and blogging about it is so fantastic to me. I wish I could come up with something like that!

    I am sure only people who have dealt with IF noticed those moments. Subtle but so important.

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  15. I've basically had the same experience...wanted kids...didn't work out...decided we're happy the way we are. I'd think Julia would say the same. I too noticed in the movie (cried uncontrollably) that she was in the same boat as many of us but felt so alone as there were no blogs to keep her company. I love her for so many reasons but I know this is why I love her the most and I try everyday to remember her love for life the way it was dealt to her. I will be that person no matter how hard I try. I love your blog and love that I stumbled across it :) cheers, carrie :)

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  16. You are not alone....even though I know it feels like it at times. I am almost 40 and childless and no one understands those parts in the movie you mentioned unless you are going through it.
    I went to see it with my friend but I know if I went with my husband he would have squeezed my hand too as yours did. <3

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  17. Loribeth, I'm happy to have found your blog. It was because I just came from the movie and was interested in why Julia and Paul never had children. My husband and I are going on 3 years of trying, with only 2 miscarriages and a lot of wasted dollars to show. I too was struck by her wistful glance at the stroller and quite honestly startled my friend when I burst into tears as Julia read the letter from her sister. The one thing that brings comfort to these situations is knowing you aren't alone. Thanks for sharing your story. Hope you and your hubby truly do live happily ever after! Great movie too! I love food! :-) A.E., NC

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  18. thanks for the review, loribeth. I'm looking fwd to seeing this!

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  19. I just found your blog, but I wanted to comment after reading the little bit about people laughing at the part where Julia was crying to Paul. I laughed, but it was a laugh of recognition - I've been there, and I know how absurd it seems to be feeling those two emotions at the same time. To be crying, and feeling the sorrow so intensely, but to have your words express happiness - it's absurd on the face, although both emotions are honest! So I laughed with tears in my eyes, and felt so so glad that that experience was portrayed in a movie, and as an okay set of emotions.

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  20. I loved the movie and find Julia that much more endearing now that I know she understood the struggle and sadness with infertility. I saw myself when she read the letter from her sister, I know that feeling all too well and it is a comfort to see that I am not alone.

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  21. Yes I just saw the movie and yes suffer with pcos and infertility. I got those two moments because of it probably!

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  22. i just wanted to say two things:

    first that some people who haven't struggled with IF (my mother and me, for example) definitely noticed those moments -- i certainly cried at the letter from her sister!

    also, a little thing, but you may as well take out the (spoiler warning) before saying that julia child did not have children... since the title of your post says it outright!

    loved your review, and the movie.

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  23. I just returned from seeing Julie and Julia and I found your blog because I (a mother of a 23-year-old) found myself in tears at the hints that Julia and Paul may have wanted a child. Thank the goddess for Meryl Streep and Sanley Tucci who portrayed loss and the power of love so beautifully. Julia was a "mother" to so many women including my mother, which probes yet again that there are many many ways to "mother" in our - dare I say - cynical age.

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  24. I enjoyed your review, however, I just wanted to clarify two things, having seen the movie last night...

    1. When Julia peers into the baby carriage, she and Paul are walking past it, not sitting on a park bench, that's now she is able to almost tip her head right over to gaze at the baby. Then Paul kisses her hand in comfort and acknowledgment. I am 27 and have not yet started trying to have babies and I certainly noticed that moment loud and clear.

    2. When she reads the letter from her sister, she's not saying that she's happy for her while she's crying, she's telling Paul that SHE'S really very happy. As in, she wants to reassure Paul that although she's crying, it's not because they don't have a beautiful life together. I think she says to him "I'm really very happy"...and I think people may have laughed because of the irony of bawling while telling someone how happy you are.

    Those were my memories of it anyways. Great blog, and I'm glad you offer support to so many.

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  25. The last commenter does a great job of clarifying those two scenes.

    I'd just add that I object to the notion that only someone who is IF would notice or sympathize. I have two children whom I love dearly (most of the time) and I immediately understood both scenes and cried at her pain.

    It was a beautiful movie. The Julia/Paul relationship was depicted brilliantly. I was impatient for the Julie parts to be over so we could return to the Childs.

    I like your blog. I discovered it whilst searching for some explanation of why Julia and Paul were unable to have children. Does anyone know?

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  26. I just saw the movie today, and I did notice those moments that you mentioned. Plus, the letter from her sister. I, too, struggle with infertility. I'll be on my eight year...

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  27. Enjoyed reading your blog! You did however make a mistake in the ages of Julia and Paul when they died (they did not life "well into their 90's). Julia died just before her 92nd birthday. Paul, 10 years her senior, died when he was 89 after suffering several strokes the last few years of his life.

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  28. I just saw the movie the other night, and I noticed the 2 moments where she sees the passing baby and obviously the moment where she cries upon reading the letter. I felt Julia's pain deeply, and my heart went out to her across time and space. What was touching for me, though, was how deeply understanding and loving Paul was to her during these moments. He intuitively knew exactly the right way to respond to her and I wished that my own husband had that innate understanding of how to comfort me. Touch speaks louder than words. I however, suspected that Julia had suffered a miscarriage, and that was what was causing her pain. Perhaps I only saw it this way though because I unfortunately share that experience and I have lived the moments that Julia experiences in the movie, even though I am fortunate enough to have a very healthy child.

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  29. I am actually watching Julia and Julie on DVD as I post this message. I didn't really think I would like this movie and I especially had no interest in Julia Child's story. However, being a movie buff I thought I'd give it a chance. I am so glad I did! I am now sooo intrigued with Julia Child. I have not even finished watching the movie and it has totally inspired me to put more creativity into my daily cooking and to definitely learn more about Julia. The first hint in the movie kind of escaped me, but when Julia received the letter from her sister, it was so obvious and heart wrenching. I actually paused the movie to search the web to confirm my suspicion, which led me to your blog. I have been battling IF also due to PCOS. (Did she really have PCOS? I thought PCOS was a fairly newly discovered condition) Anyway, they both deserve an award for their acting in this scene alone. I think this movie will introduce many women in my generation (I'm 33) to an amazing woman who might otherwise have been overlooked.

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  30. This is a wonderful blog. I will definitely be adding your blog to my reading list. I commend you for sharing with us and providing a place for us going through similar experiences to share with each other. I wish you and your dh all the best. You have certainly touched me.

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  31. Thought you should know that others are using your blog in reference to this issue. :)
    Here's the link
    http://www.blogher.com/julie-julia-pcos-and-childlessness

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  32. Thanks -- I've been wondering where all the comments have been coming from...!!

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  33. I stumbled across this blog as I wanted to read more about Julia Child after seeing the movie. After reading the comments I felt compelled to write because I am a 20 something who has not tried to have children nor is infertile but I picked up right away on the childless hints in the movie. I don't think it is fair to say people who are not going through it wouldn't notice that, and it broke my heart when I watched the movie. So I guess what I am saying is just because I am not having those issues doesn't mean I am insensitive or not perceptive enough.

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  34. Hey, I just came across your blog after googling for info as to Julia and Paul child not having children (watched it on DVD tonight). I'm loving the comments here. I'm five years into the mother thing, and watching Julia fall apart over her sister's letter KILLED ME. Been there, done that, wish I'd found the IF blogworld during the holidays of 2002 when EVERYONE but us announced their pregnancy.

    For those of you still going through it --you have my heart. Next time you think that woman at the grocery store struggling with her little kids could never understand you? Yeah. We could. And would give you hugs and vodka. It never goes away, even when it ends. From reading Julie Powell's book, she has PCOS and gained a lot while doing the project (and is not thin to this day) and she and Eric still don't have kids.

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  35. I just watched this movie and as one who is dealing with fertility issues (i just started blogging about our journey) i too noticed the two parts about the children. I loved this movie, not just because my name is julie and my husband's name is Eric, but it was just a cute movie....

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  36. I also found your post by googling Julia Child in order to find out more information about her infertility. Both references to it in the movie absolutely broke my heart. (I have been trying unsuccessfully to have a baby for 5 years now.)
    I think the letter-reading scene is showing how socially unacceptable it is to be anything other than overjoyed when hearing news of another's pregnancy. Julia lived in a world where she could not talk about her feelings out loud, and she had to say she was happy even to her husband who adored her and knew better. I find that it still is this way today to an extent, but I'm sure it was much worse for poor Julia. I SO identified with her in that moment.

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  37. I am watching this movie now and I noticed it right away. I wonder it also. We are at the 3 year mark of TTC and I wonder also if anyone that hasn't gone through infertility would recognize the look.

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  38. I purchased the movie; and I must say; I really enjoyed it; I also noticed the moments of her glancing at the baby and the also the part of her sister finding out of her pregnancy; that really raised attention to me. I guess due to the fact my husband and I are experiencing the infertility issue in our marriage; and also the fact that I love to cook also; and comtemplated going to culinary school; matter of fact I was excepted; but did not pursue any futher; for financial issues and wanting to start a family.... Still waiting for the family part to come true. But the movie is simply a masterpiece; and I really see myself in different scenes of the movie! A job well done and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

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  39. I have not suffered through infertility (I have one child) but I too was struck by these moments in this movie. They gave a real background and depth to Julia and Paul's relationship, which I thought was beautifully depicted. Their relationship felt real to me.

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  40. Loved, loved, loved this movie! It put me through a whole spectrum of emotions and I love that in a movie! Purely inspiring!!! <3

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  41. People don't understand infertility unless they deal with it in their own lives. I got to be up close and personal with it with my sister in law and I'm afraid that my daughter will also go through some tough times becoming a mother. My heart goes out to all those who want to experience it and don't. <3

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  42. I am re-watching Julie and Julia. I am not infertile, but I have had 3 miscarriages. I have 3 living children, and it still hurts to see people with babies or a big family. It especially hurts when they say I am lucky I only have 3. I cry every time I watch the movie. Those parts just wrench my heart. I just wish I could cook like Julia. I cook Cajun food, and it's good. Just need to branch out...

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  43. I have to admit that your little insert "give them time" really bothered me, since it implies that a happy couple isn't a happy family unless there are children. Like the assumption is they'll have some, no matter what. Not everyone wants children. That doesn't make them miserable and depressed. I know several very happy couples well into their 60s who chose never to have children and are quite happy with that decision.

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  44. I was just writing about those two moments being really the "only" moments I took from the movie and I googled "why was Julia Child childless" and found this post. So yes, I wonder too if anyone who hasn't dealt with infertility noticed it at all. In other news: I still haven't found out why she didn't have kids ...but from the movie, it doesn't look like it was a choice.

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  45. I haven't been here before, hello. I saw the movie and tonight and I loved the way it dealt with Julia Child's life path, and she seem to me a happy and fulfilled character. At least the way the film portrayed her.

    That is why I am so glad that the film did not try to sugarcoat or block out her deep hurt and sense of loss at not having children. It included moments like those you mention. And maybe you could see that sadness underscoring her words in other scenes, if you looked for it. But it showed that she threw herself into life, she was down to earth and passionate and she had great fulfilments in her wonderful relationship and love of cooking, her book etc. She showed a way to feel the hurt, but still live a great life.

    I don't know how true it all is, but it was a good way to portray it.

    And if it is true that you can never have it all, maybe she did better than many if not most.

    I think she was not so very old when she married, only 33 I thought, but could be wrong. I understood she met her husband at 31 and married two years later.

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  46. I picked up on the infertility issues in the movie right away. I did not know this about Julia Childs. It felt like my life in that I have not been able to have my own child even through numerous tries of infertility treatments. I would get upset seeing a mother with her baby and when my sister got pregnant with her second child, she called me on the phone the night she found out and after I talked to her and told me husband what she told me, I cried just like she did. We just recently adopted siblings, the girl is 5 and the boy is 8. We have had them for nearly 9 months now. However, I still do not feel that mother bond and the stress from my job is not helping. I did not even get to take any family sick leave when I first got them. Anyway, I enjoyed the movie and I read on Julia's biography on Wikipedia that she did not like Julie's blog because Julie used four letter words to describe the cooking that she did and she did not explain what she learned at the end of the recipe nor how the food tasted to her. I thought that was interesting.

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  47. Funny, I was watching the movie tonight and when Julia gets the letter from her sister I instantly teared up and Googled "Julia Child infertility." I guess I am always looking for companions in my infertility journey- even if they are woman who came before me in history. Nice to know I am not alone in noticing these subtleties.

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  48. I can't believe someone laughed. I watched this movie with my boyfriend and I noticed those moments. Very sad and it was touching. I own the DVD now. I thought it was amazing because Julia Child is so famous and I'm glad a new generation of people got to see her through this movie.

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  49. I am watching the movie right now and as someone who has battled infertility I also noticed the right away paused the movie and googled it. Which led me directly to you blog post. Good eyes.

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  50. Actually am watching the movie right now. I googled Julia Child a minute ago and verified that she couldn't have children. I also stumbled onto your site. I also am unable to have children, and noticed the moments in the movie that you described- the woman with the pram, and the letter from her sister (which, despite the fact it's been 10 years since I was told I would never have children of my own) makes me cry. It's the love story between Julia and Paul that really make the movie, as well as the support Paul shows her in regards to their childless situation. I appreciate your blog- sensitivity to the subject of infertility- as it is something that the rest of the world seems to struggle with/ ignore.

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  51. I am unable to have children as well, and those 2 schenes break my heart. But none of these sights say why she never or couldn't have kids...???

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  52. The term is, "Child-FREE."

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