Review by Sean Boelman
Julia Child is one of the most well-known television chefs there is, and so it’s no wonder that there have been several projects made chronicling her life. The new series Julia is pretty standard biopic material, but it is so convincingly performed and charmingly written that it is hard not to love.
Interestingly enough, the series picks up at a place where Child is already successful from her cookbook, but is not yet a global sensation because she has not yet made The French Chef. This series follows the production of the first season of her iconic cooking show, and blends behind-the-scenes showbiz drama with the social angle of things.
The storytelling here is definitely very condensed. The writers manage to capture the making of an entire season of the cooking show in a mere eight episodes, but in doing so, they effectively capture the hectic feeling that defined this production. Add in all of the subplots, and it’s an altogether riveting series.
There are some interesting themes discussed in the series, but more often than not, these feel like an afterthought. There is one arc that does a fabulous job of exploring the role of feminism in a story like Child’s, but other subplots are entirely underdeveloped, like one following the Black producer on The French Chef.
Child is obviously a very likable figure, and many people have said that she is as approachable off the screen as she is on screen, but that doesn’t always translate into a compelling character arc. She’s almost too perfect in how she’s presented, and while this was always going to be a bit fluffy, it’s a tad overboard.
Sarah Lancanshire gives a very good performance in the leading role. Unlike previous takes on the iconic chef, it’s much more nuanced, with many layers of emotion within it. There’s also a fabulous supporting cast, including Fran Kranz, Brittany Bradford, and David Hyde Pierce, all of whom play people who supported her along her journey.
The series does a great job of emulating this era of television. Although the carbon-copy recreations of The French Chef are minimal, the show does a great job of showing the pieces that went into creating the look. It’s strongly crafted all around, even if it isn’t particularly flashy with what it does.
Julia is the type of prestige project that will absolutely be eaten up by older audiences. It’s a cute little show, and while it may not quite do justice to its potentially weighty themes, it’s a pretty delightful watch.
Julia debuts on HBO Max on March 31, with new episodes streaming subsequent Thursdays. All eight episodes reviewed.