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“Eat Pray Love"
Reviewer:
Chris Pandolfi
Studio: Sony Pictures
Genre:
Drama
Release Date:
11/23/10
Special Features:

See Below

Review:

Isn't it nice to have the time, the resources, and the money to be able to travel the world and rediscover life, love, and spirituality? We should all be as lucky as Elizabeth Gilbert. Her memoir, "Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia," has sold millions, been on the "New York Times" Best Seller list for 158 weeks, and touched the lives of thousands. One of them was Oprah Winfrey, who devoted two whole episodes of her show to the book. I admit that I haven't read it, but I have done a little research on it and on Gilbert herself. I have to say, I don't much care for her or her story. Her journey of discovery, paid for by an advance on a novel she plans to write, seemed awfully selfish, for she had no real absences in her life; she was married, had an education, was a successful writer, and lived comfortably in New York. This wasn't enough for her?***

The film "Eat Pray Love," which adapts Gilbert's story and has her portrayed by Julia Roberts, tells us that no, it wasn't enough. She divorces her husband (Billy Crudup), who, in an early divorce settlement scene, gave me more reason to side with him than with her. She has an affair with an attractive and all-around nice young actor (James Franco), which she then ends in a brazen display of tears brought on by God knows what. She then decides that it's time to take a year off and travel the world, to reconnect with herself, to once again have a zest for life - in other words, to escape from all the good things she had but never appreciated. She proceeds to spend four months in Italy, where she happily eats as much pasta and pizza as she can, with a few Napoleons on the side. She then spends the next four months in an Indian ashram, where the tries her hand at meditation, apparently under the impression that God can be grasped in one fell swoop. Finally, she goes to Bali, where she's presented with, but not necessarily willing to accept, love.***

Along the way, she just happens to meet a number of people. Never mind the fact that they all greatly impact her life, as such people tend to do in stories like this; it's a miracle they can all speak fluent English. One of them, wouldn't you know it, just happens to be from the great state of Texas. In Italy, she befriends a sassy Swede and a charming Italian, a couple who look like they stepped out of a Giorgio Armani ad. In India, she meets the Texan (Richard Jenkins), a loveably gruff old man whose every line sounds like it originated from a fortune cookie. He, of course, has his own tragic back story, although he only shares it at just such a time when it's most convenient for the plot. In Bali, she reunites with the obligatory wise elder (Hadi Subiyanto), the long suffering divorcee (Christine Hakim), and Felipe (Javier Bardem), who enters her life as men tend to do in most forgettable romantic comedies.***

There's nothing about this movie that feels authentic, and that's what infuriates me; it has the gall to pass itself off as an autobiography. I don't care how accurate Elizabeth Gilbert claims it is (she said during a "Good Morning America" interview that it played like a "surreal home movie"). I don't believe her. This is the stuff of movies, not real life. Besides, she didn't visually document her journey at all - not a single photo, not a frame of film. All the more reason not to believe her. With so much doubt about the story's authenticity, and with Gilbert's questionable dismissal of the good life she so clearly had before making the journey, the film lacks any sense of spiritual enlightenment or emotional awakening; it comes off as little more than a portrait of a selfish woman on a sightseeing trip.***

Julia Roberts is a wonderful actress, and even though I disliked the woman she played, I still thought she gave a good performance. Javier Bardem seems to be channeling the same dashing mystique he employed in the much, much better "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," which is to say he seems to be repeating himself, albeit competently. As for James Franco, let's just say that my mother has coined the perfect phrase for actors that display no range and speak in monotone lulls: "They've just gotten a Novocain enema." I don't know what director Ryan Murphy told him, but whatever he said, it was terrible advice. Franco is usually a very reliable, very convincing actor. Ever seen "Milk"? Hell, ever seen "Spider-Man"?***

"Eat Pray Love" is phony, contrived, and unpleasant, made worse by the fact that we're supposed to take it as fact. Don't bother sending me comments that I'm wrong and that everything in the film comes directly from Gilbert's actual experiences. I'm not going to believe you.

Special Features:

Ryan Murphy’s Journey with Eat Pray Love featurette/BD Exclusive: Eat Pray Love: The Beginning of the Journey featurette/BD Exclusive: Finding Balance featurette/BD Exclusive: Praying in India featurette

Final Words:

If the filmmakers had followed the leads of the people behind "Under the Tuscan Sun" and "Letters to Juliet," who had the decency to label their films as works of fiction, then maybe I would have appreciated it more. But then again, no, I wouldn't have; there's still the matter of Elizabeth Gilbert, whose quest for meaning and happiness was really an exercise in trendy New Age mantra-talk and selfishness. The more I think about the journey she made, the less I like her as a person.***

 

 
 
 
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