A Movie Review – Julie & Julia

Let me start by saying that I really enjoyed this movie.  I have never seen a full TV show done by Julia Child, but I understand Meryl Streep hasn’t, either.  She took a bare minimum of audio/video info and books written about the larger than life chef and ran away with the story.  And oh, what stories!

Julia Child was a cultural attaché’s wife in 1948 Paris, France.  It’s hinted that the Childs are unable to have children, so Julia is always looking (in each of her husband’s Paul’s postings) for something to be passionate about. After aborted attempts at hat-making and bridge, Child decides that eating is what she really loves about France – so she’s going to learn to cook French meals.  And not at the “To boil an egg, you begin thus” class.  Despite speaking little French, she dives headfirst into the Cordon Bleu program for future 3 star chefs.

There she goes at a romp, whether it’s learning how to swiftly slice up an onion (practicing at home with a huge sack of them) or deciding that everything is better with butter.  She apparently finally won the respect of her male classmates (but not the head of the school) and stumbled into friendship with Simone Beck, with whom she wrote the masterpiece French cookbook for “the servantless American cook.”

The Julie part of the story is about a young woman living and working in NYC.  Her husband is an editor at a magazine, but Julie, once described as “a promising writer” has not lived up to her own expectations.  She’s hit 30 and feels there’s nothing to show for it.  So – her husband suggests she start writing one of those new Internet things, a blog.  About what?  Well, she likes cooking.  How about doing Julia Child’s great cookbook – and doing the 524 recipes in one year?

So we cut back and forth between Julia’s adventures in France, and Julie’s struggle to produce French cuisine in a coat closet sized kitchen in Queens.  There is both triumph and defeat. Julia’s husband Paul is always finding a silver lining for his wife, whom he adores.  Julie’s husband Eric wants her to be happy, but halfway through the project camps out at work a few days, tired of meals at midnight and sleeping alone.  Both women struggle to meet their goals, and while Julie is a lot weepier than Julia ever was, she’s not the vacuum some reviewers have suggested.  I know people from NYC in this generation, and her push to accomplish something she can be proud of is a modern American dream.

This is not just a chick flick.  I think anyone who enjoys movies that do not have superheroes or car explosions can enjoy this film.  You’ll get humor, drama and a touch of romance.  Both the women and the men are interesting, though the plot revolves around the two women.  We see Paris through Julia’s misty love, and NYC for the cramped and lively place that it is.  We also see how McCarthyism packed Julia’s husband back home.

Some teens will enjoy this – others frankly need to get a bit older, because kids need a reason to care about anyone over the age of 21.  But if you decide to go anyway and drag along a teenager, the PG-13 is a good rating.  There are a few strong words and some sensuality that kids younger neither need to have in their vocabulary nor can appreciate as mature romance.

And who knows?  You might be inspired to try a French recipe.  And remember – there is never too much butter.

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About Katharine Eliska Kimbriel

Cat Kimbriel is working on a a contemporary fantasy about curses, ecological change, and very different ways of looking at the twilight worlds. She's still working on a short Nuala piece and mulling over a new Alfreda novel. You can find her fantasy & science fiction, including free samples, at her Book View Café bookshelf. These books can also be found at major online booksellers. Her personal blog is here, and you will find her on whatever social media currently interests her. Cat builds worlds that contain compassion and justice -- come join the journey.


A Movie Review – Julie & Julia — 3 Comments

  1. My 13 year old adored it (well, she watches cooking shows and has been very much intrigued by my adventures in cake decorating).
    Watching the movie got me interested enough to read Child’s memoir from which the movie was (partly) taken, and it’s all there. While Child herself is bluff and matter-of-fact about their childlessness, Streep plays it (perhaps more truthfully) as a very private tragedy.

    And the real hero, as much as it’s Julia, is Paul Child, who was an artist and photographer, a really smart guy, adored his larger-than-life wife, and totally supported his wife’s increasing involvement in La Vie de la Cuisine. All the goofy photos they show in the film were modeled on photos taken by Paul of the two of them. (And I made a cake shaped like a pound of butter for a Julia Child birthday party at a theatre here in SF because, as you say…can’t have too much butter!)

  2. On the subject of butter: Apparently deep-fried butter was one of the entries in the deep-fried food contest at the Texas State Fair. It was judged “most creative” but didn’t win the overall prize. I assume, though, that Julia Child did not deep-fry! (I like to cook, but I’m too lazy for complicated recipes, so I’ve never read Julia’s cookbooks.)

  3. I adored Paul Child, too — I want to clone him. I suspected that the photos were his (or modeled on) but this wasn’t so much a food porn movie, so we did not get to see many of the foods. The only Julia Child book I have is Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom, which I recommend. It does the basics — this is how you make a white sauce, a beef broth, how to pre-prepare veggies for heating and eating later that will fix their color — lots of wonderful stuff like that!

    Sounds like I would enjoy the memoir — I’ll keep an eye out for it. Glad your daughter liked the movie! I was heavily into Food TV a couple years ago, but got busy in there somewhere. Hope she learns and enjoys as much as I did.