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Julie & Julia

John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

Meryl Streep stars in a scene from the movie "Julie and Julia."
Post-World War II Paris and post-9/11 New York are the disparate settings for "Julie & Julia" (Columbia), writer-director Nora Ephron's charming, frequently funny portrait of two women who never met, but whose destinies were both shaped by one of the most influential books of the 20th century.
The volume in question, the 1961 blockbuster Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which revolutionized American attitudes toward cuisine, was the masterpiece of Julia Child (1912-2004), here played to marvelous effect by Meryl Streep.
As the film—which Ephron partly based on Child's memoir, My Life in France, written with Alex Prud'homme—opens in 1949, though Child's future as a master chef, a best-selling author and a fixture on public television lies well beyond the horizon.
Already present, and masterfully conveyed by Streep throughout, are Child's warm personality and endearing eccentricities of voice and gesture.
As her devoted husband, Paul (Stanley Tucci), begins work at the U.S. embassy in Paris, Child discovers the glories of French food, but broods about her future. A veteran of the wartime Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA—through which she first met fellow OSS operative Paul—Child restlessly casts about for a pursuit that will keep her occupied.
When a hat-making class and instruction in contract bridge fail to do the trick, she turns to cooking lessons at Paris' famed Le Cordon Bleu, where she finds herself surrounded by ex-GIs who are none too pleased to have a woman join their ranks.
Fast-forward 50 years or so to Gotham, where Julie Powell (Amy Adams), a low-ranking official with the Lower Manhattan Development Corp.—the agency of first resort for survivors of the 9/11 attacks—finds relief from the stress of her work in the company of her supportive spouse, Eric (Chris Messina), and in the pleasures of cooking.
With her 30th birthday looming and her dreams of becoming a writer going nowhere, Amy, a devoted Julia Child fan, strikes on the idea of preparing all 524 recipes in her idol's most famous work over the course of a single year, and keeping a daily record of the experience with a blog.
Ephron, who also drew on Powell's 2005 book, Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously, whips up a delicious melange of memories, as the two principal characters dig deep for the courage to remake themselves. She also details the ingredients—ranging from passion to patience—requisite for a successful marriage, as Julia and Paul bear the burden of her inability to conceive, and Julie and Eric clash over her seemingly obsessive focus on completing her project.
The film contains fleeting nongraphic sexual activity, a few sexual references, a suicide reference, at least one use of the F-word and about a dozen crude or crass terms. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned; some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
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Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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Charles de Foucauld: Born into an aristocratic family in Strasbourg, France, Charles was orphaned at the age of six, raised by his devout grandfather, rejected the Catholic faith as a teenager and joined the French army. Inheriting a great deal of money from his grandfather, Charles went to Algeria with his regiment, but not without his mistress, Mimi. <br /><br />When he declined to give her up, he was dismissed from the army. Still in Algeria when he left Mimi, Charles reenlisted in the army. Refused permission to make a scientific exploration of nearby Morocco, he resigned from the service. With the help of a Jewish rabbi, Charles disguised himself as a Jew and in 1883 began a one-year exploration that he recorded in a book that was well received. <br /><br />Inspired by the Jews and Muslims whom he met, Charles resumed the practice of his Catholic faith when he returned to France in 1886. He joined a Trappist monastery in Ardeche, France, and later transferred to one in Akbes, Syria. Leaving the monastery in 1897, Charles worked as gardener and sacristan for the Poor Clare nuns in Nazareth and later in Jerusalem. In 1901 he returned to France and was ordained a priest. <br /><br />Later that year Charles journeyed to Beni-Abbes, Morocco, intending to found a monastic religious community in North Africa that offered hospitality to Christians, Muslims, Jews, or people with no religion. He lived a peaceful, hidden life but attracted no companions. <br /><br />A former army comrade invited him to live among the Tuareg people in Algeria. Charles learned their language enough to write a Tuareg-French and French-Tuareg dictionary, and to translate the Gospels into Tuareg. In 1905 he came to Tamanrasset, where he lived the rest of his life. A two-volume collection of Charles' Tuareg poetry was published after his death. <br /><br />In early 1909 he visited France and established an association of laypeople who pledged to live by the Gospels. His return to Tamanrasset was welcomed by the Tuareg. In 1915 Charles wrote to Louis Massignon: “The love of God, the love for one’s neighbor…All religion is found there…How to get to that point? Not in a day since it is perfection itself: it is the goal we must always aim for, which we must unceasingly try to reach and that we will only attain in heaven.”   <br /><br />The outbreak of World War I led to attacks on the French in Algeria. Seized in a raid by another tribe, Charles and two French soldiers coming to visit him were shot to death on December 1, 1916. <br />Five religious congregations, associations, and spiritual institutes (Little Brothers of Jesus, Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Little Sisters of Jesus, Little Brothers of the Gospel and Little Sisters of the Gospel) draw inspiration from the peaceful, largely hidden, yet hospitable life that characterized Charles. He was beatified on November 13, 2005. American Catholic Blog You know, O my God, I have never desired anything but to love you, and I am ambitious for no other glory.

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