Julia Child was a constant in my house, along with Mr. Rogers. Not that my mother could cook like her or anything — we just enjoyed sitting down and watching her witty repartee. She just seemed to enjoy cooking, and that was enjoyable to us. She was mesmerizing on the small screen. My family wasn’t the only ones that watched her every week though. Thousands of households watched her. Most of these housewives wanted to be her.
Julia Child has received a couple of films based on her in the past. Last year, an in-depth documentary came out using a lot of archival footage, her show, and talking heads. And back in 2009, the film Julie & Julia came out starring Amy Adams as a woman who decided to cook every recipe in the French Cookbook Julia wrote and starred three-time Academy Award Winner Meryl Streep as Julia Child and Stanley Tucci as her husband, Paul.
Julia, the series on HBO Max, goes into more detail about her life, career, and family and friends. It’s a much more accurate portrayal of Julia Child and her entire life, even the peripheral people in her life, like the editor of her book and an assistant producer of her show. The series is very good at getting inside the world of Julia Child. It’s much more of a difficult world she lives and works in than her show let on. Her outgoing and happy attitude was sometimes hard for her to accomplish all the time considering the world outside that studio WGBH in Boston.
Part of what makes this show work so well is the cast, and that starts with Sarah Lancashire as Julia Child. She embodies what it is to be this wonderfully happy woman. Even when she’s not always wonderful or happy, she has various levels of her character that are much more in tune with the world she lives in as a whole. The ’60s weren’t kind to independent women. David Hyde Pierce as Paul, her husband, was also very good. He had to become a man who was second fiddle to this juggernaut of a woman. That couldn’t have been easy for Paul, but Pierce pulled it off perfectly.
The supporting actors, such as Bebe Neuwirth as Avis, Julia’s best friend, are fantastic; she added a nice levity to the show during some more serious moments. Fran Kranz, a director in his own right of the indie film Mass in 2021, plays Russ, the yin to Julia’s yang. He wasn’t always on board with the show or Julia but came along in the end. He supported her when it counted. Fiona Glascott played Julia’s editor at Knopf publishing, a friend to Julia who supported her through thick and thin. Glascott was like a shining light at times during the show. Her wardrobe throughout the show was just as glamorous as she was. They both were welcomed every time they appeared on the screen. Brittany Bradford had her own arc as the producer in the series. She fought for Julia while also trying to make a life for herself. She cared about her career and being someone who could stand with the men in the television industry.
Daniel Goldfarb, Natalia Temesgen, Jenee Lamarque, and Charles MacDougall combined to create a great show. I can confidently say that as a fan of Julia Child going back to my childhood and because of the quality of this show. From the direction to the writing to the production design and cinematography, they are all first-rate. The show shined a light on a woman that helped create an entire form of television. She was a star before cooking shows became a thing in the decades to come. This show looked and felt beautiful. Julia is another hit for HBO Max in a long line of successes.
Dan Skip Allen
Sean Boelman Founder/EIC disappointment media