Nora Ephron’s Julie and Julia,
a celebration of famous chef Julia Child and her less-famous blogging
fan Julie Powell, is one of the more-female centric movies to make a
splash of late. While the film occasionally veers oh-so-slightly into
the shmaltzy and cliched, it’s an incredibly enjoyable two hours of
tasty fun, and to boot, it’s a celebration of two career women’s talent
and ambition, as well as their healthy sex lives with their egalitarian
partners. Yes, both the middle-aged Julia and the younger Julie get it
on with their husbands on the regular. Even Julia Child’s hilarious
sister, played by Jane Lynch, finds love late in life, and her match
clearly has a sexual spark to it. Basically if there’s a moral to the
story besides "food is an art" and "follow your dreams" it’s "men
who support eccentric and brilliant women really, really rock." In
addition, Streep’s Child is a tall, robust, quirky and unabashed
character, one of the more interesting and far less stereotypical women to
anchor a movie in ages.
Julie and Julia’s unflinching look at middle-aged marrieds erotic
lives is part of what appears to be a growing trend. With the baby
boomer filmmakers who pioneered women-friendly, if not feminist, movies
beginning to turn their attention to older protagonists, we’re getting
a spate of really positive depictions of female sexuality at all ages.
And it seems like Meryl Streep is the muse for this movement: her
hippie mom character in Mamma Mia! is an unrepentant former
practicioner of free-ish love who acknowledges that "that part of her
life" is no longer over. Now she’s playing Julia Child as a woman of
healthy appetites, and soon she’s going to appear in Nancy Meyers’ It’s Complicated
at the center of a middle-aged love triangle between Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin.
The critical success of these films—which, while normative in some
ways, are a big step up from trifles like Bride Wars and 27 Dresses— is
important for revitalizing women’s roles in Hollywood and pumping life
into the idea that women don’t have to be young, bland and perky to make
a film successful.