When I saw there was going to be a biography about Julia Child, I was excited. Despite not being a great cook, I love cooking shows. Julia Child is the mother of modern cooking shows, the inspiration for rock star chefs, and anyone who loves cooking has heard her name. The film excels at weaving together a documentary that is truly a love letter to Julia Child, using footage of her show, interviews, and letters to bring us a full picture of her life and her passions.
Julia directed and produced by Julie Cohen and Betsy West, the documentary chronicles the life of Julia Child, with Brian Grazer and Ron Howard serving as executive producers. The film explores Julia’s early life, building on interviews and journals to share her early life choices, her journey to independence, the meeting of her husband, and how she became a chef. It continues to detail her passion for France and how she became an author and why she began demonstrating recipes from her book on television as well as how she became such a star on television. It demonstrates her huge impact on the cooking world, not just as a chef but as a cultural icon, the originator of cooking shows, and the inspiration for rock star chefs.
Julia Child was the original savvy rock star chef. She knew when she wrote her cookbook that she needed a way to get people excited enough to buy it. That led to her creation of cooking shows and inspired all our modern-day shows. What is wonderful about this documentary is how well it explores all aspects of her life and portrays her in a fair but loving light. The film blends together footage of her show, her appearances on talk shows, her letters, her journals, her husband’s words along with interviews with friends, family, and business associates to create a compelling and dynamic look at her life. While many speak of Julia Child with respect, no one tries to insist that she is perfect either. While she was not perfect, what makes her unique is that she was always learning, always willing to make mistakes, and learn how to do things better, both in her cooking and in her personal views. This is what made her such a powerful figure.
Part of what made this documentary truly shine and come alive for me was the very words of both Julia and her husband Paul. Much of the film utilized journals that the pair used when they became friends and as their relationship grew. Their words showed a lovely partnership and friendship between the two, a rich relationship and unusual for the time in how much Paul supported Julia’s career and dreams, appreciating her passion and intelligence and standing in her shadow rather than needing to take the lead. Their words also showed humor and love between the pair, creating a much broader picture of who Julia was, an authentic presentation of a woman who was so much more than a housewife.
Not only were the writings rich in detail but the interviews and film coverage of Julia Child added depth to what we as a culture know of her. Not only did the directors Cohen and West interview family but also friends and colleagues who described Julia as witty, creative, demanding, organized, savvy, and willing to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes, to continually challenge herself both in her career and in her personal life. Her show pushed the boundaries for women, allowing people to cook who never imagined they could, and created paths for women in the world of cooking. She also challenged age expectations, working long into her eighties and well past when most would retire. All of this is revealed in a wonderfully detailed film that shows Julia Child in an honest yet respectful light.
If you want to know more about a fascinating woman, about how much she impacted both public television, cooking shows, and the sale of cookbooks, I would highly recommend checking out this biography of Julia Child. It is a fascinating, well-written, well-directed, honest, and loving portrayal of one of the most amazing women of her time. It is also mouth-watering as you get to watch her create her famous recipes on-screen.
Rating: 5 out of 5 Boef Bourguignon
JULIA tells the story of the legendary cookbook author and television superstar who changed the way Americans think about food, television, and even about women. JULIA opens in theaters Friday, November 19, 2021.