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MiNDFOOD Reviews: Julia Child documentary is a fond look at a cooking icon

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. Using never-before-seen archival footage, personal photos, first-person narratives, and cutting-edge, mouth-watering food cinematography, the film traces Julia Child’s surprising path, from her struggles to create and publish the revolutionary Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961) which has sold more than 2.5 million copies to date, to her empowering story of a woman who found fame in her 50s, and her calling as an unlikely television sensation.

If you haven’t yet heard of Julia Child, you’re in for a treat. 

A new film about her life, Julia, focuses on the life of this woman who became America’s first real celebrity foodie and cook. Directed by filmmakers Julie Cohen and Betsy West, who also made RBG (about Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg), Julia is a fond look at the woman whose decision to take cooking lessons in Paris rather than just be a diplomat’s decorative, bored wife unexpectedly led her to worldwide fame.

Julia, Chef Bugnard Preparing Chicken & Fish. Photograph by Paul Child. © Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University. Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

Born in 1912 to a wealthy Californian family, 6-foot-2 Julia was no shrinking violet. After her marriage to diplomat Paul Child in 1946, they moved to Paris, where she fell headlong in love with the city and French gastronomy.

After talking her way into all-male cooking classes at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu school, Julia decided to collaborate with two female French cooking teachers to write a cookbook for Americans which became Mastering the Art of French Cooking and a popular best seller. At the age of 50, Julia got her own TV cooking show and her fame burgeoned from there. Her unique delivery was a hit with audiences and for the next 40 years she continued to write cookbooks and appear on television with her authentic, unrehearsed style of cooking show.

Julia Poses With Staff Cooks On Set Photograph by Paul Child. © Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University. Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

A mix of archival footage, personal photos and interviews with chefs, Julia’s friends and family, this documentary is not just for foodies (although no doubt they will love it) as you gain a real sense of Julia’s larger-than-life personality. Spliced in as well are mouth-watering shoots of Julia’s recipes being made, including possibly the best recipe for roast potatoes in the world. At a time when most women on TV were young, blonde and sexy, Julia was a breath of fresh air. Tall, exuberant, loud, and not classically beautiful, she endeared herself to viewers with her accessibility and the ease with which she owned her kitchen failures and happily showed how to salvage them.

Lingering footage of France – the Childs’ second home – add to the beauty of this engaging film from executive producing team Brian Grazer and Ron Howard.

Julia is now screening in New Zealand cinemas, and opens in Australian cinemas on 4 November.

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