Julie and Julia is based on two true stories. The first is about Julia Child, famous for her recipe books and TV cooking. The second is about author Julie Powell, who gains fame by recording her exploration of Julia’s recipes in a blog.
The movie opens with Julia Child (Meryl Streep) and her husband Paul (Stanley Tucci) arriving in France and setting up house in 1949. Paul is an American diplomat who has been assigned to Paris for the next four years. The movie then jumps to 2002. Julie Powell (Amy Adams) and her husband Eric (Chris Messina) have just moved to a new apartment above a pizza shop in Queens. Julia works in a small office cubicle answering distraught calls from disgruntled insurance claimants. From here, the movie jumps backwards and forwards between the two stories. Julia Childs’s story unfolds over a 10-year period from the late 1940s to the 1950s. Julia Powell’s story spans a single year (2002).
After settling down in Paris, Julia Child becomes restless with her life and eventually decides to take up cooking. She enrols in the male-dominated Le Cordon Bleu cooking school. During her studies, Julia meets two French women who are writing an American/French cookbook. When the book is rejected by their publisher as being ‘not English enough’, Julia takes over the project. She spends the next eight years of her life rewriting the book.
Like Julia Child, Julie Powell decides that she needs meaning and fulfilment in her life. With Eric’s help, she starts a blog in which she records her journey of cooking her way through Julia Child’s cookbook – all 524 recipes in just one year.
The McCarthy era in the US
Although this movie contains no physical violence, it does contain:
- some individual emotional outbursts
- a low-level domestic dispute
- references to death and the terrorist attack of 9/11
- one comedy scene depicting lots of gushing blood.
It also includes the following scenes:
- Over the phone, we hear a woman talk about her son dying in the ‘second tower’, and another woman talking about her partner having fibreglass in his lungs.
- During a heated argument involving some mild name-calling between Julie and Eric, Eric slams his hand against a closed door before he storms out.
- Julia’s husband is verbally interrogated during the McCarthy years. Two intimidating men ask him questions about his patriotism and his sexuality.
Content that may disturb children
In addition to the scenes mentioned above, this movie contains some scenes that could scare or disturb children under eight. For example:
- In a comedy sketch on the TV show Saturday Night Live, we see a man dressed as Julia Child presenting a cooking show. He cuts his finger and blood spurts out. It covers the front of the presenter and the kitchen bench, while he pretends it is not serious.
- Julie reluctantly puts several live lobsters into a pot of boiling water. Several seconds later, she is startled by the lid popping off.
- Julia stabs a large kitchen knife into a lobster and cuts it in two.
- One scene depicts an open market with animal parts on display. These include a pig’s snout.
- In another scene, we see Julie holding part of a calf’s leg while she describes how to render it down.
Some children in this age group could also be disturbed by some of the scenes described above.
Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this movie.
This movie contains some sexual references and innuendoes. For example:
- While reading from a French cookbook, Julia’s husband suggestively refers to a hen (chicken) being ‘stuffed until she just can’t take it any more’.
- Julie talks about one of her friends having sex while in the air with her new boyfriend who has a plane.
- We hear that when Julia (in her mid-30s) and Paul first met, Julia was a virgin.
- Julie’s husband tells her that he has a problem – too much food and not enough sex.
- During a government interrogation, Paul is asked whether he is a homosexual.
- When Julia picks up noodles in her hands, she makes a sexually suggestive remark.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
This movie contains some use of substances, although it contains no images of drunk people or behaviour. For example:
- In Julia’s story, we see characters drinking alcohol frequently and smoking cigarettes and cigars. Characters drink alcohol with meals and during social events.
- There is similar alcohol consumption in the scenes from 2002, but no smoking.
Nudity and sexual activity
This movie contains some infrequent partial nudity and sexual activity. For example:
- In one scene we see Paul wearing a robe that reveals his bare chest. He is lying on a bed with Julia, who is clothed. They kiss and turn off the light, and Paul lies on top of Julia. The scene ends.
- Julie and Eric are kissing on a couch. Eric climbs on top of Julie before the scene ends.
- We see Paul arriving home for lunch and hear narration about how he would take a nap after lunch. We see Julia and Paul entering the bedroom with Julia slipping Paul’s braces from his shoulders.
- Julie jumps on to her husband and kisses him. We then see her in her bra and underpants with her legs wrapped around her husband as he carries her to the bedroom.
- Julia and Paul sit in a bath filled with soap bubbles so that only their shoulders are visible. They have used a self-timing camera to take their photo while in the bath. They are planning to use the photo as a postcard to send to Julia’s sister.
The following products and companies are mentioned in this movie: Blogspot, Sony computers, PayPal and cookbooks, particularly Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
This movie contains some infrequent coarse language and name-calling.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Julie and Julia is based on two separate stories woven together into a single comedy. It is targeted mainly at grown-ups, but is also well suited to older adolescents or anyone with a passion for food or cooking. The movie is highly entertaining from start to finish with many truly funny moments. Meryl Streep’s performance is particularly outstanding.
The movie’s main messages are to do with finding what you’re passionate about in life and using it to give your life meaning.
Values in this movie that you might want to reinforce with your children include:
- determination and hard work. For example, both Julia and Julie are determined to finish what they start and to succeed. Regardless of setbacks, both women refuse to accept defeat.
- encouragement and supportive behaviour. For example, both women have partners who are willing to support them in any way, particularly with words.
This movie could also give you the chance to discuss with your children the following real-life issues:
- In this movie, men take a supportive role rather than a more dominating role. What influence might this have on how women are viewed?
- The movie shows people in the 1950s as heavily addicted to smoking cigarettes. In contrast, smoking in 2002 is non-existent. What message does this send about smoking?
- Paul is interrogated under the McCarthy regime. What does the movie suggest about the McCarthy era in US politics?