I'm totally confused. If Eat Pray Love
the movie is a faithful adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert's best-selling memoir, then why did it ever make it onto the bestsellers list? And if it's not a faithful adaptation, why isn't it? Was something lost in translation or was the source material not as strong as book sales would have us believe? The Liz Gilbert in the film version of Eat Pray Love
is one of the least compelling, least interesting women we've seen as the lead figure of a movie in recent memory, and I can't figure out why women in particular are so in love with this character.
As Liz, Julia Roberts
smiles a lot, cries a lot, and heads off on a journey of self-discovery (read year-long vacation from real life) after her marriage falls apart and her attempt at a lasting relationship with a much younger man fails. The character as written is so self-absorbed, unlikeable and worst of all, after a year of trying to find herself never really seems to grow as a person, that there's nothing about this successful writer (who's apparently got an abundance of money) to grab on to.
Eat Pray Love - The Story
Liz isn't happy. Her husband, Stephen (Billy Crudup
), is unfocused, frequently changes jobs, and is unsure of what he wants to be when he grows up. The new house they bought just a year ago seems like a prison to Liz, and when Stephen says he wants to go back to college, she decides that's the end of her patience with him. Now, since this is done incredibly quickly in the film, it's kind of like she just gives up on marriage without much of a fight. She's done, he still loves her, but she quickly moves on to a much younger actor (played by James Franco
) who's starring in a play she wrote. She sees him on stage, thinks he's saying the words only to her, and bam! - they're in a relationship. But just as quickly as she starts that up, she decides he's not for her. She's unhappy and feels dead inside, and the only way to fix herself is to take off for a year and travel.
Julia Roberts and James Franco in 'Eat Pray Love.'© Columbia Pictures
Liz has three specific destinations in mind for her journey of self-discovery. First, Italy where she can indulge in lots of pasta and see all the historical sites. Next, she'll head to India to spend time with her young boyfriend's favorite guru. Why? I don't know, but chalk it up to that self-discovery notion. And then she'll finish up her year off with a visit to Bali where she'll reunite with a wise man who told her on a previous trip that she'd have two marriages, lose her money, and then gain it back again.
With no worries about money or work or any responsibilities, off she goes, passing through the lives of various interesting people while telling anyone willing to listen that she's trying to find herself and get over the end of her marriage. Which she gave up on and immediately turned to another man to get over...who she then gave up on fairly quickly for no apparent reason. So says the film. The fact she does believe by the end of the movie that she's healed herself and discovered what she needed to find out comes out of left field as none of that is shown in the film.
The Acting and the Bottom Line
There are some truly fine performances in Eat Pray Love
including those of Viola Davis
as Liz's best friend and voice of reason, Richard Jenkins
as a fellow seeker of inner peace (a film focusing on his character would have been far more intriguing), and Javier Bardem
as the handsome, understanding, wealthy, near-perfect, also divorced man she meets and falls in love with in Bali. Davis, Jenkins, and Bardem deserved more screen time. Although it's Liz's story, the film would have benefited from focusing more on any of those three and less on Roberts as Liz.
In a way Eat Pray Love reminds me of Scott Pilgrim, a film it's opening against, because both movies suffer from lead characters who aren't that engaging. In the case of Scott Pilgrim, the supporting players are so strong it makes up for Michael Cera's lack of charisma as Scott Pilgrim. But with Eat Pray Love most of the supporting players are there for too short of a time for the talents of the film's co-stars to make up for the ho-hum leading character. Not to say Roberts isn't pouring her heart and soul into the part. She does in fact give a good performance. It's just that the movie version of Elizabeth Gilbert isn't someone I'd ever want to spend any time with, let alone two and half hours sitting in a theater listening to whine.
Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem in 'Eat Pray Love.'© Columbia Pictures
Eat Pray Love
is pretty to look at, but there's no depth to the story and no real meat to Liz's journey other than what's in the delicious food she treats herself to during her sabbatical from life.
Eat Pray Love was directed by Ryan Murphy and is rated PG-13 for brief strong language, some sexual references and male rear nudity.
Theatrical Release: August 13, 2010
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