Did you know that Julia Child was a wonderful dancer, an incorrigible flirt and literally paved the way for all that massive love of food millions are privy to through photos on Instagram or Twitter? Julia Child defied expectations for women of her time by traveling abroad, mastering French cuisine, and in her fifties, becoming a celebrity on public television with The French Chef. Her books and series transformed our country’s relationship with the food culture and opened a new career path for women in cooking. Women like Martha Stewart, Rachel Ray, Ayesha Curry, Paula Deen and my beloved Howard University Bison Carla Hall among others.
Only Oscar-nominated directors Julie Cohen and Betsy West could deliver such a rolicking, touching portrait of this culinary icon. They explore two of her great relationships in her life – her husband, Paul Child and French food, as well as, a wicked sense of humor inherited from her Mom quipping that she “produced 18 feet of children (all of whom were over 6 feet tall). Being the only woman in her class at Le Cordon Bleu (amongst eleven G.I.’s) Julia spent years collaborating with co-writers Simone “Simca” Beck and Louisette Bertholle on Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Her publisher expected it to flop, but when she did a cooking demonstration on Boston public television in 1962, a star was born.
Cohen and West’s film makes great use of Julia’s television archives. Recording live to tape in the early days, she was determined to hold an audience’s attention and became an expert improviser over anything that went wrong. Her whole life was about evolving and she adapted to changes in cultural shifts over food, feminism, and homosexuality, in addition to fighting ageism staying active until the end of her life at the age of 91.
The ladies also make excellent use of French food and music footage from the 40’s and incorporates absolutely gorgeous photography of food that will literally make you moth water. My favorite moment was when Julia said the secret to keeping her decades long marriage to Paul alive was to make sure she incorporated the 3 F’s – Feed, Fuck and Flatter.
There’s no doubt that Julia Child helped redefine the culinary palate in America from tv dinners to Beef Bourgignon with a legacy that continues to impress and inspire.