Review | ‘Julia’ celebrates food, love and the life of Julia Child

Julia | Dir: Julie Cohen & Betsy West | ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Julie Cohen and Betsy West who directed RBG, the 2019 documentary about legendary American Supreme Court judge Ruth Bader Ginsberg, have found another dynamic force that wouldn’t be silenced. Their documentary tells the story of Julia Child – the famous cookbook author and television superstar.

From a wealthy American family, Julia escaped her conservative family and the pressure to get married by helping the World War II effort, and was posted to the Office of Strategic Services (later known as the CIA) in Ceylon. It was there that she met Paul, who was then posted to France after they had married.

The film recreates Julia’s first meal in France – sole meunière which is a delicate white fish cooked in butter (lots of butter), and served with a simple salad on the side. It was love at first bite and she enrolled in the famous Le Cordon Bleu Cooking School, where she was the only female because at that time women were thought to be incapable of holding heavy pots and utensils.

However Julia was an imposing figure, being 6’ 2” inches in height with a strident voice and outlandish sense of humour. She co-wrote Mastering the Art of French Cooking (published in 1961 and selling 2.5 million copies) and her television cooking program, debuting in 1963, showed American women a love of cooking that didn’t involve canned or frozen food.

Early archival footage, interviews, personal photographs (taken by her husband Paul who was a talented photographer), diaries and letters reveal Julia to be a warm and entertaining person who didn’t slow down as she aged. Still appearing on television in her eighties, this first celebrity chef established the joys of ‘food culture’.

The delightful and deeply personal documentary also shows how, with the support of her dedicated husband, Julia evolved as a person to break away from her staunchly conservative upbringing to support Planned Parenthood and raise awareness for AIDS.

Lezly Herbert

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