on June 25, 2011
This was the first book I've read from Julia Wertz, and I must admit, the alcoholic in me was intrigued by the title, and the indie comic fan in me was wondering if the book would deliver. For who I am, where I am, I found this story at just the right time. If you've ever picked up stakes and moved to some foreign place, faced with the worry of rent, bills, and general month-to-month financial surprises, still unsure about what you're doing with your life and where it's currently going, get this book. There's something strangely calming about reading someone else's testament to the real world and coping with the joys and pitfalls of independence. Constantly moving between apathy and general depression, all with self-deprecating humor and the occasional small-victory joy, there's a comfort knowing that others have in fact been where you are ( often in even deeper trenches than you're in now) and being able to see an albeit romanticized view of the trials and tribulations you and others are, are going to, and have been through. It's the idea of knowing that in a world of rule followers, and breakers, there is a path for the middle-minded, and you might even come out on the other side alive, if not thriving. Excuse the optimism in these too-dark times, sometimes getting by is more than enough. Contrasted by an environment somewhat paralleled today, being that the back drop is early thousand's bush era and the current fallout of today, it gives neither heavy weight or ignorance of what was happening, and therefore not overly political. Which is good, in our current trend of finger pointing and placing blame, we often miss the everyman's ( in this case, everywoman's) real world perspective of " Well, it happened. How am I going to deal with it?"; which is a good way to summarize this tome's general message and endearing traits- Life happens, How are you going to cope, weirdo? Unblinking in her own flaws and follies, you get an intimate look into someone else's life and their dealings with the world's plan, instead of some glossed-over drama piece where everyone is a movie star with the right line or appropriate pause when speechlessness grabs them. Pick this up and read a few pages, and you'll be faced with a problem I'm sure the author remembers all too well- I NEED this book, but I really need to check my bank account first. Oh well, screw it. Pick it up and enjoy it. It'll be worth the ramen cuisine til next pay day. Hunger and humor are the best spice when you're looking at an empty bank account.
Julia Wertz's cartooning style is thick-lined and clunky, but I suppose that's the charm of her art. Drinking at the Movies is a chronicle of her struggles to acclimate to New York City after having moved there from San Francisco. Wertz's mid-20s cartoon persona is wry, observant, and frequently obscene. She's not self-consciously "artful," and that's the point: Julia is a fish out of water in the late 2000s hipster scene in Brooklyn.
Wertz's cartooning and sense of humor reminded me of the great underground comix artists of the 1960s. Like many of them, Wertz got her start in San Francisco and is able to bring a dark -- even cynical -- sense of humor to the comics form. Drinking at the Movies is a descendant of that tradition.
What I did find somewhat tiresome is Julia's constant bemoaning her sad life. In some respects, this is the point of the entire book: as she says toward the end, "Ive been blaming external calamities for my self-inflicted miseries and for events that occurred 3,000 miles away" (p. 186). Still, this realization didn't do too much for me. Bite-sized doses of Julia's complaining (say, in serial form) might be palatable, but a whole book devoted to it can get monotonous.
Julia Wertz follows in the tradition established by Harvey Pekar in his American Splendor series. The life experiences of Everyman or in this case Everywoman can be as fascinating as any superhero, or because we can relate to them, perhaps more so. This autobiographical graphic novel follows a year in the life of Julia following her move from San Francisco to New York. Cleverly drawn, we follow with schadenfreude the mishaps and misadventures of Julia as she bounces from apartment to apartment, job to job, consuming vast quantities of alcohol along the way. We are routing for her to succeed, because in reading this book, we can see how immensely talented she is. It is the dry, self-deprecating humor that really makes this an enjoyable read.
on April 14, 2015
I thought I was tired of autobiographical comics, but after reading this gem by Julia Wertz, I realized I was only tired of diary strips (or to use the upscale term, “graphic memoirs”) with nothing to say.
In contrast, Wertz has in Drinking at the Movies a simple concept for a through-line: how and why she moved to New York (Brooklyn, specifically) from San Francisco. It’s not an unfamiliar story — and that makes it more relatable, as most of us have wound up in a new city and struggled to become comfortable there — but her observations are unique and well-told.
Plus, New York is The City for many people, the only one that matters, so everything there takes on a bigger significance, bringing more depth to her challenges. Anyone who’s been there can relate to travel confusion, the city’s heat in summer, the dirt, crazy people, and the problem of finding a decent place to live. Wertz has a good sense of history, placing her acts in the context of bigger happenings. In other words, it’s not all about her, which makes the focus on her more palatable.
Wertz’s style is simple but skilled, comfortable but capable of telling her story. The flat figures are still expressive, and without flashy graphic tricks, the reader can concentrate on the meaning of what she’s telling us. The first four pages sum up how quickly things can change, taking us from what sounds like a pretty good time to an unsatisfying existence, full of loss — loved ones, job, and so on.
Once she’s moved, the book settles into moments that make up daily life, with (as suggested by the title) plenty of drinking when she doesn’t know what else to do. She perfectly captures the problem of not being happy with who and where are you but not knowing where you want to be. Her willingness to make herself look foolhardy or addicted or unpleasant provides a lot of humor, all the funnier for having more behind it, whether it’s hints of alcoholism or a brother’s rehab or depression. (Review originally posted at ComicsWorthReading.com.)
on January 7, 2012
I didn't care for this book at all, so I gave it to my 20YO daughter who I think is more the intended audience. This is what she had to say:
The artwork to me was a major problem. I could not get past her rough style, which looked like the doodles of a high school kid in a boring class. That being said, there are redeemable qualities. The plot was a bit like The Alchemist, where the protagonist goes off in search of something better after hitting a slow and familiar point in their life. Unlike The Alchemist however, Julia Wertz may never have found enlightenment. She is a just moved out kid working low class jobs, and just barely making rent. Her story is going from San Fran to NY, and all the mishaps and thoughtful moments along that road. It's an interesting story; she has a rough look on life, and it shows in her stories. She constantly berates herself, and criticizes her every move. This makes her comics more realistic, and easier to relate to. She, like many, has no idea. And she does not pretend to have an idea either.
The prevailing mood of the book is one of apathy. There are no real highs or lows of feeling or character. It's a kind of numbness wrapped in a few funny comments. Sometimes she's too realistic to be perceived as funny, which just lends to the aforementioned realism of her book.
I feel that this was a worthwhile read, although my life was not changed by it, and I certainly could have lived without it. I may keep an eye out for her other works though.
I first came upon Julia Wertz when she edited (and contributed to) I Saw You.... Even in those precious few panels, I knew I had a winner. Self-deprecating to a fault (is that a pun), honest and (don't take this as a backhand) only mildly funny. To me, that last bit made her comics that much more authentic and real and, while I haven't gone out of my way to track down her works, I HAVE been keeping an eye out for whenever they cross my path... as they did so in Drinking at the Movies.
Here we have Julia's tale of New York pseudo-bohemianism. Have I invented a new and impressive term for the paradigm? No... no, I haven't... I just don't know how else to describe her experiences in NYC without falling onto some fake verbage.
From her decision to take the plunge to her drinking problems to her comparisons and homesickness for San Francisco and everything in between, Drinking at the Movies is like watching my life as a car wreck in slow motion... if I were a woman and any amount braver than I am now (being deathly afraid to take a step in any direction, lifeward). And when I say that, I don't mean we're the same people seperated by gender and courage... what I mean is... well, there's a situation for just about every post-twentysomething still trying to find their place in the world to identify with.
Now, let me warn you... if you've never read any of Julia's work before, the art can put you off. Her style is rough. Definitely more mature than a good many indie comicers out there, but you can never shake off the feeling that these are all just the doodles of a bored high schooler. For me, that's a plus. Others might not be able to look past it. One particular bit that detracts occurs when her brain obsconds with her common sense and decency, literally leaving her cranium... forcing a doodle Sherlock Holmes and Dr.Watson to find it. Art-wise, it was annoying... and, to me, it didn't help narrative-wise, either.
Still... as an indie-autobiography, Drinking at the Movies works. I enjoyed it and would recommend it to any post-grad out there who still feels like a failure at life.
Cheers, and I look forward to your next book, Julia~
I really wanted to like this graphic novel because it sounded like a funny read. However, I found myself bored most of the time, to the point that I just wanted the story to be over so I could move on to something else. I particularly had problems with the artwork. I guess I expected something better, but it looked very amateur. Granted, I can't draw at all, but after reading graphic novels with extraordinary artwork (American Vampire Vol. 1,Pride of Baghdad, etc.), this one fell flat.
This is an autobiographical comic about Julia Wertz's move from San Francisco to New York in her early 20s and the trials and tribulations associated with the transition, as well as the foibles of her own life, friends, and family.
While there are several stories of persons moving to the big city, it's not so much the story as it is the reactions of the characters or the main character in the story that make it stand out. "Drinking at the Movies" works as a great comic book read because Julia Wertz is such a pleasant, funny, and original person to tell that story.
It might be coloured by the fact that I too am in my 20s and have gone through a lot of what Wertz went through, but while there's a lot of things anyone who grows up in their 20s in a big city can relate to, Wertz's humour colours the experience from an alien, disturbing one to a charming and humour filled catalogue of short stories.
Wertz herself is very open about the kind of person she is - awkward, uninterested in "girly" things, likes to be alone, likes junk food and alcohol far too much, is unconcerned with relationships, and has an aversion to work in favour of the kind of whimsy and freedom being an artist brings (and the near poverty standard of living as well). I found myself thinking of the kind of cool, cute girls I knew in high school who never felt beautiful even though they were or confident in themselves or their abilities, and thinking Wertz must have been one of them, and that this book is testament to those qualities.
In terms of art style it's quite simple with panels used, and it reminded me of Jeffrey Brown's drawing style, and the diary format along with the exuberance of life was reminiscent of James Kochalka's "American Elf" comic. It's a style that's disarmingly straightforward but really effective in this kind of storytelling.
I really enjoyed the book and genuinely laughed at a few of the stories in here. It never felt boring or too self-absorbed as the artist is too self-aware to allow that kind of naval gazing. A great read for fans of indie comics, I highly recommend giving this book a chance - I'm glad I did.
on April 30, 2011
Do you remember when you were in your 20s, and you moved out of your parent's house for the first time? When you thought you had it all figured out? When you were smarter and funnier than everyone else? Do you remember how you were really kind of a jerk and made a lot of really bad choices?
Well, Julia Wertz is here with an autobiographical comic book that will remind you of all the good and bad times of being a young person trying to figure out what the hell to do with your life. She relates the everyday humiliation of trying to make ends meet with a gentle wit, and her biting sarcasm is tempered by a streak of self-deprecation that would make the most humble person feel prideful in comparison. The wisdom of a few years removal gives Wertz the perspective to be as critical of herself as her "character" in the book is of other people.
Wertz's drawing style is simple, accentuated from time to time with truly lovely renderings of apartments and workspaces. Wertz may not be a hyper-realistic cartoonist, but she has a easy to read style that flows well with her everyday anecdotes. The only true criticism I can level is that most of the male characters look identical. Not similar, but identical. I was confused if there was a reason for this, as she does seem to have a low opinion of men in general, but it applies equally to both total strangers and close friends. Odd, and a bit confusing.
If you read "Fart Party" comics, you'll find this an interesting companion. Many of the same incidents are covered, with some expansion and context that makes them more interesting here. "Fart Party" is kind of a journal, a prelude to this memoir.
"Drinking At The Movies"
Written & Illustrated by Julia Wertz
(Crown/Three Rivers Press, 2011)
Working in the same unflattering, warts-and-all autobiographical vein as a Joe Matt and Julie Doucet, Julia Wertz (creator of "Fart Party") lays bare the wry, wisecracking soul of twenty-something American hipsterism. A San Francisco kid transplanted to New York City, Wertz spends her days mostly slacking, sitting in front of the computer checking e-mail and drawing these irony-drenched cartoons. She also works to pay the rent, mostly at schlubby jobs in restaurants and cafes, although she also briefly lands a gig at a magazine; in the evenings she drinks beer with her pals (mostly other cartoonists) and occasionally she turns her attention towards politics and current events, which mostly leads her to mumble snarky things in the general direction of the TV.
At least that's how Wertz makes things seem in these cartoons, which do capture a certain vibe and youthful time in life when making clever (but eternally aloof) wisecracks is considered the hallmark of social success. But a little bit of world-weary irony goes a long, long way, and after a while readers (especially old farts like me) may find themselves wondering where the story is... In a bloggy world, where we're used to people telling about their day-to-day, dumb little lives, we're not surprised to find that not much seems to change, even when someone moves across the country. But it's the lack of change in Wertz herself that wears us down: is she really content to just drink beers and crack jokes in Brooklyn bars, or is there more to life than that? She's entertaining, but in a holding pattern, and perhaps these slice-of-life single-page strips translate better as online posts (which you can also read on her website, fartparty) Still, Wertz does have a funny, intelligent artistic voice, and if you like being charmed by cynical, sullen, don't-give-a-crap-what-you-think, young gals, this book might be for you! (Grampa Sixpack, ReadThatAgain book reviews)