Making the Grades
Before there was Nigella Lawson, Rachael Ray and Ina Garten (along with a host of other female Food Network chefs), there was Julia Child, the towering American woman who became famous for teaching televised cooking lessons to the average "servantless" homemaker.
Before there was a book and movie deal, Julie Powell worked in a secretarial job and cooked at night to relieve her stress. In 2002, she challenged herself to prepare all 536 recipes in Julia Child’s massive tome, Mastering the Art of French Cooking—and blog about it.
Now the stories of these two women’s lives come together in this script based on the memoirs, My Life in France and Julie & Julia. In the film, Julie Powell (Amy Adams) lives in a tiny apartment overtop of a pizzeria in Brooklyn. During the day she works in a cramped cubical for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation where she fields calls from disgruntled individuals who are more than happy to take their anger out on her.
Crawling home at night, she revivifies by pulling out her pots and pans, often while pouring a good stiff drink. But as this about-to-be-thirty office worker faces her milestone birthday, she is plagued with self-doubts and a lack of direction. Sensing her unhappiness, her husband (Chris Messina) encourages her to take on a new challenge and thus is born the Julie/Julia Project.
Intertwined with Julie’s culinary blog is the narrative of Julia Child (Meryl Streep) set in the 1950s. Living with her husband in Paris, the former government employee longs for something to do with her days. Cheered on by Paul (Stanley Tucci) who loves food as much as his wife, Julia signs up for cooking lessons at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu where she competes with a roomful of male students. She follows that by collaborating with authors Simone Beck (Linda Emond) and Louisette Bertholle (Helen Carey) on a book project and cooking school of their own.
For both of the main characters, food (and the preparation of it) is not only a passion but a means of dealing with the disappointments and setbacks of life. Fortunately they are married to spouses who aid in the women’s success by offering an extra measure of support to their endeavors. Some of that encouragement comes in the forms of passionate kissing and implied sexual activity between the married partners. The script also contains some brief sexual innuendo and double entendres, along with infrequent strong language and depictions of smoking.
In addition to the delectable looking food portrayed on screen, this film’s most impressive ingredient is a strong performance by Meryl Streep who captures Julia’s enthusiasm, unruly hair and campy humor. While most teens and children won’t think twice about seeing this adult-oriented production, grown-ups will likely enjoy the tale of these two women. But be forewarned. Eat first or at least make late night dinner reservations before attending this delicious depiction of the art of French cooking.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Julie & Julia.
How does Julie feel in the company of her Cobb Salad friends? How does food become the basis of social gatherings in this film?
How does finding a passion give direction to these women’s life?
Ina Garten, host of the Food Network show Barefoot Contessa, shares a recipe for her own version of Beef Bourguignon.
This movie is based on two books: Julie & Julia: My Year Of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell and My Life In France by Julia Child and Alex PrudHomme.