Julia REVIEW – A Humbling and Appetizing Documentary

For fans of Julia Child, and cooking enthusiasts.


Julia Child was a master cook, a television personality, and – in many ways – a pioneer. Most remember her for her overly theatrical presentation on her cooking programs, which spanned four decades.

Yet, you might be surprised to learn a few interesting facts about Mrs. Child’s life. Not only did she volunteer for service during World War II, but she worked for the Office of Strategic Services (the predecessor to the American CIA). However, her calling was in culinary arts, and the road to success was not easy.

Julia by Betsy West and Julie Cohen tells the story behind Julia Child’s career and what we may learn from her experience. The film introduces us to Mrs. Child in her New England roots. Like many women in the early 20th century, she was expected to become a typical housewife and nothing more. As it turned out, Mrs. Child found her calling while living in France with her husband, Paul. Upon discovering culinary arts, Mrs. Child invested her passions into writing cookbooks and eventually hosting one of television’s first cooking programs, The French Chef. Her career served as a precursor for today’s beloved cooking hosts, be it Rachel Ray or Gordon Ramsey.

Moreover, it gave millions the inspiration they needed to follow their dreams – namely, women.

It doesn’t take long for us to fall in love with Mrs. Child. Through personal interviews spanning her career, Mrs. Child is allowed to speak for herself – and she’s every bit as theatrical and entertaining as one might expect. Co-workers and fans who’ve mingled with her confirm that she was as flirty and funny in person as she was on her show.

The documentary also reveals how most of her programming was improvised with no cues. Any mistakes made on-air needed to be fixed on the spot. What seemed like theatrics was, in fact, a diligent effort to keep a television program going. West and Cohen’s documentary often focuses on mistakes made on Child’s part and how she handled them even in the most stressful situations. Likewise, a spilled omelette on live television becomes a metaphor for bigger mistakes we make in life.

Julia also explores Mrs. Child’s weaknesses – and there were many for sure. The documentary also doesn’t hide the fact that Mrs. Child adopted a businesslike approach to her career, which alienated her from loved ones at times. She initially lucked her way onto a public television program, but she had to fight to keep up with the times constantly – and the times eventually caught up with her until she was phased out altogether.

Along with the pressures of success, Julia explores Mrs. Child’s struggles to adapt to change herself. By the 1980s, Child openly expressed dismay over the number of homosexuals that appeared in her audiences. This was a polarizing moment for her, but it wasn’t until the AIDS epidemic that she softened her views towards this population. Child had to adapt to the zeitgeist of her day, and this makes Julia a convenient film in a time where we are all adapting to changing socio-cultural norms.

Possibly the most touching aspect of the documentary is Julia’s personal love story with her husband Paul. The two stayed committed to each other until Paul’s passing in the 1990s. Paul was Julia’s husband, confidante, and assistant in her career. While businesses can easily (and often do) tear couples apart, Julia and Paul thrived in their environment. Paul’s support of Mrs. Child was instrumental in her success, and this close support network helped her succeed as a cook, an entertainer, and a person.

There’s so much to learn from Julia Child’s experience, and West and Cohen succeed in introducing us to this individual. We follow Mrs. Child’s story from humble roots to fame, as well as her pitfalls and stumbles along the way. Fame and fortune transformed her life, but even as a celebrity, Julia Child never stopped growing and learning.

West and Cohen delivered this message well, and it’s a story we can all learn from.

Review screener provided.

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Julia does an excellent job in telling the life of television's most famous cooking host. It outlines the key moments of Julia Child's career and how she overcame adversity through dedication and humor. Anyone unfamiliar with her will fall in love, while cooking enthusiasts will relish her story.