Aside from intellectual property attorneys, who really knows where to get good movie ideas? Julie & Julia, due in theaters this August, is Nora Ephron's movie of Julie Powell's memoir (originally a blog) of the year she devoted to making every recipe in Julia Child's famous cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Starring Amy Adams as Powell and Meryl Streep as Child, it is said to be the first wide-release movie developed from a book developed from a blog developed from a cookbook. And it just goes to show that potential entertainment properties are lurking everywhere. What most interests me, though, is its implied confidence in the supremacy of storytelling. If this film succeeds, it might inaugurate a whole new cinematic subgenre of movies dramatizing the doing of things described in instructional books.
Is an adaptation of Harold Bloom's How to Read and Why finally at hand? If so, what would it require? Perhaps the enterprising screenwriter might invent some twenty-something everyman, poised on the brink of self-actualization, and cross cut his intellectual development with telling formative vignettes from the life of Bloom?
Already I can picture our young, book-addled hero, sitting in an uncomfortable chair and contemplating “the vagaries of our current counter-Puritanism,” with the camera swirling and the music swelling around him; or standing by his apartment window, gazing out into the dusk and bearing in mind that “Irony will clear your mind of the cant of the ideologues, and help you to blaze forth as the scholar of one candle.” It began with Jason Schwartzman in contention for the part, but now I’m seeing Michael Cera.
So OK, it’s looking like this will be a Ron Howard picture, dumbed down just enough for mainstream safety and perhaps controversial in its casting of Tom Bosley as Bloom (certain members of the blogorati having lobbied in vain for Martin Landau). A box-office success? Maybe. An Oscar magnet? Well, sure, as long as it gets across the notion that “We read not only because we cannot know enough people, but because friendship is so vulnerable, so likely to diminish or disappear, overcome by space, time, imperfect sympathies, and all the sorrows of familial and passional life.”
And if that doesn’t work out, there must still be a good movie to be made from How to Complain for Fun & Profit: The Best Guide Ever to Writing Complaint Letters, by Bruce Silverman. Or at least from The Garden Primer, by Barbara Damrosch.