“The Help” & “Julie and Julia” Movie Reviews

I hate listing my favorite movies. I love too many stories to rank them well. But if I was forced to name my favorite movies as of May 2014, they would be as follows:

  1. The Return of the King (because that’ll always be my all-time favorite)
  2. Man of Steel
  3. The Help
  4. Julie and Julia
  5. Les Miserables

Yup, Les Mis got bumped from Number 2 to Number 5. Sorry. And Man of Steel and The Help are currently warring for Second Place, just so ya know. The only reason The Help is at Number 3 is because I’ve only seen it twice and I’ve seen Man of Steel . . . uh, never mind, you don’t want to know.

The Help and Julie and Julia are the ones I’ll be chattering about today. Both are the kind of movie you want to watch over and over again, just to let all the delightful details and lessons seep into your soul.

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{DISCLAIMER}

Both of these films contain language, and Julie and Julia has several scenes of Husband-And-Wife-Lovey-Doveyness that are inappropriate for Unmarried Viewers.  If you decide to check these films out, please watch with discretion. Thank you!

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The Help, as I mentioned in my last blogpost, is the story of a young white woman, Miss Skeeter, and two colored women, Aibileen and Minny, who secretly write a book about the plight of African-American maids in 1960’s Mississippi.

The Help is a fictional story, but the cruel treatment of black people in the Deep South was, I’m sorry to say, very real. If anyone finds out about Skeeter’s authorship of this controversial book, she could go to jail; if anyone finds out about the maids, they could be thrown out of their homes, beaten, even killed.

Ultimately, the bravery of Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny changes their little Jackson neighborhood, but even that promising change comes at a high cost.

This movie (and the book, which is even better!) inspired me. Skeeter, for good or for ill, is my fictional twin; I don’t think I’ve ever met a character who I could relate to so much, at least as far as writing aspirations and personality go.

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On the other hand, Aibileen’s quiet, steadfast bravery and her ability to encourage others (especially poor, neglected little Mae Mobley) are qualities I certainly aspire to.

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And you can say one thing for Minny: she’s an excellent friend. She will defend and protect you till the cows come home. That said, she’s also a terrible enemy. Don’t get on her bad side: you never know what she might put in that chocolate pie she claims she made just for you 😉

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One thing The Help taught me is to be more sensitive to the needs of others. The quote “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about,” reminds me of Minny’s employer. On the outside, Miss Celia Foote is just a ditz; she wears gaudy clothes and she’s always giggling far too loudly for more refined tastes.

What Minny learns, however, is that poor Miss Celia was thrown from poverty to riches after her marriage to Mr. Johnny, and doesn’t know how to handle her sudden abundance. Not only that, but Miss Celia has borne, alone, the tragedies of four miscarriages. There’s a lot more to Miss Celia than anyone thinks, and when the society ladies of Jackson reject and mock her, it just about breaks her heart. Brusque, opinionated Minny soon becomes Miss Celia’s only friend. Love transcends societal barriers and prejudice, and Minny and Celia feed one another the confidence each woman needs to face her own struggles.

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Julie and Julia is a movie I’d heard of but hadn’t seen until my dad got it for my mom as a Mother’s Day present. And since it’s directed by Nora Ephron of You’ve Got Mail fame, we had a feeling it would be along the sweet-and-humorous lines. We weren’t disappointed. Julie and Julia is just plain CUTE.

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Julia, the wife of an American diplomat stationed in Paris, wants to do something with her spare time, but the only thing she’s really enthusiastic about is food–especially French food. So, encouraged by her husband Paul, she decides take a rigorous course in French cooking. The school inspires her, and before long she’s helping two friends write a book on French cooking geared towards American women.

Skip forward 50-60 years to Julie Powell, a young housewife who’s been disappointed in her aspirations as a writer. Her husband Eric encourages her to write about something she’s interested in. Julie enjoys cooking, so she and Eric come up with the idea for her to go through Julia Child’s cookbook in a year and blog about the experience.

Not only are the parallels between Julie and Julia’s lives so interesting, but the lessons they both learn were very encouraging to me. Both women take their God-given interests and use them to enrich the lives of those around them. Both rely heavily on the encouragement and patience of their husbands. Both delight in making something beautiful.

Julia Child is also an admirable example of someone who pursued her gifts without neglecting her highest calling: being a good helpmeet to her husband. Julie, a much younger wife, isn’t always so good to poor Eric, but when her own selfishness threatens their marriage, she’s reminded of Julia’s example and becomes much more humble and loving.

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Julia is completely comfortable in her own skin. The real Julia Child was 6’2, rather boisterous, and rather clumsy, but she loved life. From everything I’ve seen or read about her, she brimmed with joy and lived like everyday was an adventure. She was also unfailingly optimistic: “One of the secrets, and pleasures, of cooking is to learn to correct something if it goes awry; and one of the lessons is to grin and bear it if it cannot be fixed.”

Meryl Streep looks, sounds, and acts so much like the real Julia Child, it’s downright shocking. She is truly a fantastic actress and pulled off Julia Child’s unique character flawlessly.

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If Julia is the character you aspire to be, Julie is the character you relate to. She starts off depressed and insecure, but thanks to Julia’s distant influence and the lessons Julie learns during 365 days of cooking and blogging, she becomes more confident, joyful, and content. Her character development is so fun to watch. You can even see the change in her wardrobe: at the beginning of the film she’s rather frumpy, and by the end she’s wearing a lovely white lace dress as she serves up the grand finale of her cooking project.

I confess to some mental fangirling when Amy Adams first came on the screen, seeing as how this was my first time seeing her in something other than Man of Steel. And if you want me to crack up laughing, just replay the lobster scene for me. That was good acting, screaming and jumping six inches off the ground like that. “Lobster killer! Lobster killer!”

So that’s my review of my two new favorite movies. I know we talked about The Help a little bit in my last post, but how many of you have seen Julie and Julia? Here’s a better question: how many of you have cooked any of Julia Child’s recipes or watched her cooking show? I’d love to know!

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16 thoughts on ““The Help” & “Julie and Julia” Movie Reviews

  1. Okay….I owe you a fangirl email sometime soon, because I finally watched Man of Steel! And all of these deserve more gushing, but since I’m short on time, I’ll say two things:

    YOU’VE ONLY SEEN AMY ADAMS IN TWO MOVIES?! Go watch “Enchanted” right now!! It was sweet, it was funny, and it was clean. (One really brief awkward moment, due to her naivete and an embarrassing trip, but nothing terrible.) The Muppet Movie was pretty cute as well.

    “The Devil Wears Prada” had some language and I think a scene, comparable to these two movies. It’s a must-see partly because it’s a chick flick with substance (not a phrase I usually have reason to employ!) and because MERYL STREEP. (Yes, she gets caps lock.) You will hardly recognize her. She’s incredible.

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    1. RACHEL. You must write me. Do not delay. Judging from your phrase “fangirl email” I am guessing your feelings were along the positive lines and SQUEEEEEEAL we must speak soon. Repeat: do not delay 😉 😉 😉 😉 😉

      Okay, okay, let me clarify: I have actually watched some of “Enchanted” on YouTube; also some scenes from “Leap Year.” So I’m not a complete Amy Adams newbie, LOL!! I also have two songs from “Enchanted” on my iPod that I listen to every Tuesday at work. I haven’t seen “The Devil Wears Prada” but I’ve heard it’s good too, so I’ll have to look that one up.

      Write me, Rachel.

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  2. LOVEBOTHMOVIESSOAMAZINGGAHILOVELOVELOVETHEEND.

    Also ditto..see Enchanted (loooooooooooooooove…and Idina Menzel!!!) and The Devil Wears Prada. SOOO good. Anne Hathaway is fantastic and MERYL STREEP. Gah.

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    1. LOL! Yep, basically my feelings for both films summed up in one long caps-lock-heavy run-on sentence 😉

      YESSSS IDINA MENZEL but she doesn’t sing. Yet she and Amy Adams would sing “Defying Gravity” together in the make-up trailer! It’s a wonder the world didn’t explode from the Awesome Cute.

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  3. I just started reading The Help after seeing the trailer and knowing that I HAVE to read AND watch it. I love it. Minny’s chocolate pie… 😉

    I am definitely going to check out Julie and Julia very soon!

    God bless!
    – Alyianna/Anna

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    1. Oooh yeah, Minny’s chocolate pie…don’t ever, EVER eat Minny’s chocolate pie if you aren’t on excellent terms with her 😉

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  4. I’m so glad that you’ve finally seen Julie and Julia! Ever since Dad made a cleaned-up version a few years ago, it’s been a family favorite. Like you said, it’s just so cute! Great reviews, great post!

    Julie and Julia definitely inspired me to try some of Julia’s recipes. My favorite is her chicken chowder recipe. And her old shows – oh my goodness! Not only are they very informative, they’re so hilarious! If you’ve never seen any of her shows or tried her recipes, well, you must. 🙂

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    1. I was so excited to see your comment, Victoria, since you’re actually the person who first told me about “Julie and Julia” when I first met you! We’re watching Julia Child’s old cooking shows during lunch break. Today we watched her cook coq au vin and chicken fricassee and let me tell you, we were ROLLING with laughter. She didn’t take herself seriously and really seemed to love what she was doing. My mom is hoping to get one of her cookbooks soon, too, so hopefully we’ll be trying out some of those wonderful recipes!

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  5. I love Julie and Julia! I’ve been fascinated with Julia Child ever since I read her memoir, My Life in France, several years ago. But I had never really had any desire to see Julie and Julia, probably because I’d heard awful things about the book it’s based on. Then my parents watched it and recommended it to me, and I very reluctantly watched it. I couldn’t believe how much I loved it! The story and the soundtrack and everything was lovely. I love reading about or seeing Julia and Paul’s relationship…it seemed so sweet.

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  6. Love, love, love. I love both of these movies, and your reviews were right on, Maribeth!! I truly laughed at your disclaimer – “lovey-doveyness.” Perfection. 😉

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  7. How wonderful! (Thank you for the disclaimers, by the way. I really appreciate being warned. 🙂 )
    The Help, as I’ve previously said, looks wonderful, and I hope to both read and watch it sometime this summer.
    Julie and Julia is very very good according to your description, but I think I’ll do a little more research before I decide whether or not to watch it. (Thanks again for the disclaimer; I hate being blindsided by *hem* lovey-doveyness, as you so aptly put it.)
    You’ve Got Mail is sitting in our living room, and I can’t wait to watch it! But I have many other things on my immediate List, so it might be a little while.
    I recently watched Captain America: the Winter Soldier, and you MUST watch it! It is amazingly good. The fight choreography is great, and the plot has so many wonderful twists. And through it all, Captain America stands strong for the freedom of others; he never wavers from this, no matter what the personal cost. The DVD is slated for release sometime in August, last time I checked, so when Autumn strikes I’d advise you to start looking around. 😉
    Onto books (which you really didn’t discuss but I think your post can lead into well): I’m currently reading Oolong Dead by Laura Childs. It’s one of her “Tea Shop Mysteries,” and I quite like that series. It’s no Jane Eyre, but it’s a nice read and doesn’t have *hem* ‘steamy’ scenes like many mysteries and new(er) books in general do. I think the main character pulls her boyfriend into a kiss every now and then, but there’s no excessive description at all, whish is something I find very nice and a breath of fresh air.

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    1. DVD release in AUGUST?!?!?! Whoo-hoo, YES!!! (*mentally dances an Irish jig*) We will be waiting on pins and needles for that. Thanks for the heads-up, Zenta!

      Hmm, I’ve never heard of that book. I’m actually reading Gone With the Wind right now. I’m only on the second chapter (the chapters are really long) but thanks to flipping through it a bit I’ve come to at least one major conclusion: Ashley Wilkes is dull as a fence post and I honestly don’t see why Scarlett set her cap so much for him 😛

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  8. I read this when you posted it and I completely forgot to comment!!

    I LOVE THE HELP SO MUCH. That movie is so deep yet fun and beautiful!

    And thank you for reviewing Julie and Julia–I have heard the title but no one has every talked about it and I didn’t realize Meryl Streep was in it and I adore her!! I’ve also seen a ton of Julia Child’s cooking show so I know I will love that part of the movie for sure!

    ~Jamie

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    1. “The Help” is a beautiful movie, isn’t it? Skeeter’s wardrobe causes me to covet 😉 And many of the more light-hearted aspects of it are extra-funny/relatable if you live in the South, LOL!

      And oh my goodness gracious yes–if you love the Julia Child TV show, you will love the cooking scenes in “Julie and Julia.” Whether it’s Julia chopping about fifty onions in her kitchen (the smell is so strong, poor Paul has to flee) or Julie dropping lobsters into boiling water with complete terror on her face–it’s 100% guaranteed to make you laugh!

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  9. For some reason I haven’t commented before now! I know I’m a bit late (haha) but I must reccommend that you watch some of Julia Child’s show…we used to watch it on PBS and she’s hilarious. I’ve only seen bits and clips of Julie and Julia, but Meryl Streep looks liked she acted just like her! My favorite thing about Julia Child was that she’d taste *everything*. And it’d make me jealous ’cause everything on the show looked so delicious. 😀

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