57th Chicago International Film Festival Capsule Review

Julia. 2021

Directed by Julie Cohen and Betsy West.
Featuring Julia Child, José Andrés Puerta, Ruth Reichl, Cecile Richards, and Marcus Samuelsson.

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.


Even for those unfamiliar with cookbook author/TV host Julia Child, there’s an immediate infectious charm to her high-pitched, highly distinct voice. Couple that with whimsical mannerisms and a sense that, while cooking is an artistic endeavor to her, the television show needs to be fun to watch, it’s a no-brainer that she found success. Based on various books about Julia’s life, with Julia documentarians Julie Cohen and Betsy West (sizzling from their recent outstanding Ruth Bader Ginsburg doc) have also assembled more than enough fascinating archival footage, first-person narrations, and on-screen letters to round out a fairly straightforward birth-to-death summarization of her life with insight.

Breaking off from her conservative father and moving to France with a husband in Paul Child so supportive he puts most men to shame in that department, Julia finds her calling and French cuisine and actively enjoying the role of homemaker (there’s an amusing bit where she expresses that the key to a happy marriage is the three Fs; faithfulness, fucking, and flattering your man). And while such a lifestyle may seem regressive compared to the world today, Julia Child also happened to be staunchly progressive, taking up stances of pro-choice, workplace equality, and raising AIDS awareness. Such juxtapositions are intriguing to watch play out, especially as Julia tries to reach out to her conservative family or undergoes her own teaching moments when it comes to derogatory language surrounding gays.

Julia learned as much as she taught, seemingly spreading all that knowledge in a broader context through her writing and TV shows. Age rarely became an obstacle for her, breaking new ground appearing on TV well into her 80s even when networks perceived her star power as fading away. Julia is a somewhat formulaic documentary (consider it like following a recipe), but the result is well-prepared and sumptuous.


Tickets can be purchased here.

Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at [email protected]



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