- Year: 2009
- Director & Screenplay: Nora Ephron
- Length: 2 Hr. 3 min.
- Genre: Biographical-comedy, drama
- Rating: PG 13 for brief strong language, some sensuality
- Stars: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina
- Based on books by: Julia Ann Foster; Julia Childs
- Awards: Meryl Streep as leading actress: Academy Award, Golden Globe, BAFTA, Screen Actors Guild Awards…
Cher’s Armchair Travel: France
Travel Tip: New York City
Travel Tip: Washington DC
Americans have had a long-seated fascination with France; Paris in particular. When we question potential travelers, Paris is typically at or near the top of their list. I looked at some of the magic in a previous Film Discussion “Midnight in Paris“ which looked at the fine art and literary art aspects. “Julie and Julia” focuses on another art: culinary art.
Why do we love Paris?
There is something magical about Paris. The iconic Eiffel Tower. The mystique of the Seine River. The colorful history. The breathe-taking scenery. The mouth-watering food. The delectable wine.
Paris is magical. And in this film, that magic comes alive through the life and legacy of culinary artist, Julia Child.
Based on two true stories, “Julie & Julia” is a fun, feel-good, and inspirational film that embodies the best of everything French: its food, its culture, its wine, its scenery–all to entice the viewer to travel to France –or at least your local French bakery or cafe!
Flipping between the true tales of two women: present-day 2002 Julie and Julia in 1950s past, we enjoy various moments in both their lives. Both share a passion for the indulgence in and preparation of French food.
Plot: Tales of Two Women
New Yorker Julie Powell (Amy Adams) is frustrated with her depressing job and embarks on a daring project: she vows to prepare all 524 recipes in Julia Childs’ landmark cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” within 365 days–and blog about her journey. All while working her stressful day job.
We also experience the life of the legendary Julia Child (Meryl Streep) at the time she has just relocated with her husband to Paris; she needs an outlet for her boundless energy. Intertwined with Julie’s story, we witness how Julia conquered French cuisine with passion, fearlessness, and plenty of butter.
Why watch this film? I have viewed this film twice before in group settings with fellow travelers and in preparation for trips to France. This third time, my husband and I watched it alone in the quiet comfort of our home. With no travel planned to France, and embarking on major life changes myself due to the pandemic, I was surprised at how this viewing impacted me differently than before. I still appreciated the script, the plot, the scenes in Paris, the humor, and the great acting. But my enjoyment ran much deeper this time; it was more personal.
Wondering: what should I do now? In the film, Julia and Julie are both seeking meaning and purpose in their lives. I can personally relate to both. The upheavals caused by the pandemic have caused many of us to question where our lives are going, what we are doing–and why? In the wake of a major shake up of my own career and direction in life, I too have asked this question. What should I do with my life now?
Why not write–a blog? Both Julie and Julia turned to writing; they wrote about their passions. They set personal goals related to their passions. Like the modern day Julie, I too created a blog that focuses on my passions–a blog which you are now reading! I quickly resonated with Julie’s experiences along her journey. First it is finding the right format. Then it is writing for an unknown, unseen audience (scary). It wondering who “out there” is reading it (anyone?), and being very excited to discover that…drum roll…we have “followers!” (Yes! We do value you and appreciate it when you “like” something and better yet: write a positive comment!) I quickly connected with Julie on this common ground!
French Street Scenes
I love wandering the streets of Paris and interacting with the shops that spread out into the doorways and sidewalks. The scenes of Julia gleefully engaged in shopping for fresh ingredients for her latest culinary delight brought back wonderful, warm memories to me as well!
One other thing I enjoy about Paris is interacting with the eager, animated, and engaging Parisian street vendors and shop keepers. Julia is in heaven with this adventure!
It seems that everything in France revolves around delicious French cuisine and great French wine. Paul and Julia spend a lot of time enjoying this pastime with their friends. This is good prep for anyone planning to visit anywhere in France!
French Cuisine and Wine in New York City
Eric and Julie’s lives also revolve around good French cuisine and wine, especially during the year of her culinary challenge! The film provides us with some excellent shots of quaint European style food markets in the streets of New York City. They celebrate the completion of the final recipe on their rooftop–and what could be more fitting than a iconic view of the Manhattan skyline in the background? (Except maybe the Eiffel Tower!)
TRAVEL TIP: For stateside travelers, New York City is a fantastic destination for dining and entertainment (once they open up again and it is safe to travel…) so one does not have to go overseas for great international cultural experiences.
Changes–and Obstacles in Life
Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, this has been a year of many changes for me; for all of us. It has been a year of retrospection on where my life has been–and the direction it may be going. It has also been a year void of travel and a lot of uncertainty when I may be able to travel again. Both Julie and Julia were beset with obstacles throughout the movie as they strove to share their passions and pursue goals.
Setting Goals–and sticking to them
The relentless pursuit of their goals, and their stories accompanying them, were encouraging to me. Like Julie and Julia, I too needed to set a goal that would provide me with joy and satisfaction–and purpose. I then needed stick to that goal, despite discouragement from what was going on around me.
Husbands and Humor
One of the things I enjoyed in the movie was the positive interaction between Julie and Julia and their husbands. Both couples not only loved each other, but both husbands were very supportive of the needs of their wives to do something productive and meaningful in their lives at that time.
Eric Powell (Chris Messina) encouraged Julia during her cooking adventures, supported her during her melt-downs, and greatly enjoyed the culinary delights she produced for them and their friends!
Laughter is the best medicine
I thorougly enjoyed the humor shown by Julia’s husband, Paul Child (Stanley Tucci). He absolutely adored his wife; he knew just what made her tick. and loved her for her idiosyncrasies. Their differences in height were a fun topic of humor between them. He was there to encourage and comfort her; through him and with him, Julia Child was the best she can be personally and professionally.
What defines us?
Like many people during this pandemic, I also have been forced to reassess what it is that defines me and what I will be doing as I–we–move into the future. Like both Julie and Julia, I have also been blessed with a wonderfully supportive husband also inserts enough humor into life to keep me from getting too serious and obsessed!
What happens next? For Julie and Julia? For you? For me?
This time, as the film concluded, I found myself in a contemplative mood, asking the question: when this pandemic is finally over–and it will be over–after all the disruptions and life changing events that have occurred in our lives… what happens next?
What happens next? For you? For me? For us all over the world? I found the stories of Julia and Julie an inspiration for me–and maybe for us all–as well!
In biographic films (and novels) I am always curious about what happens next to the characters I’ve come to love–and hate–in the story. For those of you who might be curious and Julie and Julia, here it is.
Julia Child’s kitchen in Massachusetts was donated to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.. Her pots and pans were on display at Copia in Napa, California, until the year 2009 when they were relocated to the National Museum of American History. Just two days before her 92nd birthday, Julia Child died of kidney failure in Montecito, California, on August 13, 2004. Her beloved husband Paul, died a decade earlier at age 92.
Julie Powell–in real life and in the film–rewards herself at the completion of her goal with a trip to the Smithsonian kitchen with an offering of a pound of butter. The last scenes of the film show Powell and her husband visiting a reconstruction of Child’s kitchen at the Smithsonian–and Child and her husband in the same kitchen at her Massachusetts home celebrating the event when she received a first print edition of her cookbook.
TRAVEL TIP: For stateside travelers, the Smithsonian Museums (there are a LOT of them!) in Washington, D.C. (once they open up again…) and Julia Child’s kitchen is a must-see even more-so after watching this movie!
During her life. . .
Julia Child made French cuisine accessible to American audiences as a chef, author and television personality. The first woman to have her own cooking show, she paved the way for other female cooks and chefs to follow in her footsteps. She provided lessons on how to prepare French food easily and simply. As noted in the movie, she attended the famous cooking school, Le Cordon Bleu, and later privately with several master chefs.
The real Julie Powell is. . .
Julia Anne Foster, an American author known for her book Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen as well as the film (discussed above) which was based on her book. She has since written other books and is a frequent guest on TV talk shows and workshops. In 2009, she was awarded an honorary diploma from Le Cordon Bleu, the same cooking school from which Child graduated in 1951.
All in all – “Julie and Julia” is a film that is fun, humorous, inspirational and worth the time to watch. And if it recalls a trip you took to France–or inspires a future trip–that is even better!