A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although this dramedy is ultimately upbeat, it isn't all sugary sweet. The protagonists -- strong female characters played by Amy Adams and Meryl Streep -- both undergo identity crises of sorts and must grapple with all that entails, a theme that may not appeal to tweens and under (though the soul-searching's not too deep).There's some swearing (including one use of "f--k"), and the movie's two married couples are comfortable displaying their physical affections, though there's no nudity or graphic love scenes.
What's the story?
It’s 2002, and Julie Powell (Amy Adams) has fallen into a rut. Her job as a clerk fielding 9/11 claims is both depressing and soul-killing. She’s swimming upstream while her affluent, successful friends glide by in their yachts, metaphorically speaking. So, encouraged by her husband (Chris Messina), Julie sets a goal: to cook her way through Julia Child’s (Meryl Streep) venerable tome, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in one year. And, for good measure, she'll blog about it. As Julie makes her way through the 500-plus recipes, Julia's life, decades earlier, unfolds in Paris. A former government secretary married to a devoted diplomat (Stanley Tucci), she’s determined to reinvent herself, and her passion for good food seems as good a place as any to begin.
Is it any good?
Adams' Julie is delightful ... but not delightful enough to warrant quite so much screen time (what's with the distractingly bad haircut and the constant bellyaching?). Her arc moves the film forward, but it’s Julia Child who intrigues, so much so that it can be a killjoy to switch back to Julie in 2002. Although her Julia borders on caricature, Streep is still phenomenal, making it clear that the woman who wrote the cookbook that changed the way people cook was much more captivating and much less solipsistic than the real-life blogger who found fame through her.
Director Nora Ephron also unfortunately gives Paris a bit of the cold shoulder -- we get glimpses, but not enough to sate our hunger for the city that made Child swoon. And speaking of hunger: What happened to showing off all those tasty dishes Child was whipping up? Though the boeuf bourguignon and sole meuniere make the mouth water, and a perfectly iced chocolate cake tempts, there really isn’t enough food showcased for a film about a world-famous chef. Brief glimpses of meringue and close-ups of a trussed duck don’t feed a food-movie lover’s soul.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why Julie felt compelled to set such a lofty goal. Was it just about the cooking? What did she learn besides how to make great food? How is she similar to or different from Julia?
How do the two characters stack up as role models?
What's the film's take on women’s roles, both then and now? What aboutidentity? What shapes your identity? Your work, your personal life, orboth?
For kids who love strong female characters
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