Review: Eat, Pray, Love
PLOT: Liz (Julia Roberts) is a woman who seemingly has it all; a kind husband (Billy Crudup), a beautiful home, and a promising career as a writer. And yet, she's a deeply unhappy woman. One day, she decides to ditch her husband, and embark on a whirlwind romance with a young actor (James Franco). Over time, the affair comes to an end, and- searching for higher meaning, Liz takes a year long holiday with three stops: Italy, India, and Bali.
REVIEW: It's finally here- the film all fanboys have been waiting for! Well, OK, maybe that film isn't EAT, PRAY, LOVE. Many have been making this weekend out to be a huge box office battle of the sexes, with the male skewing THE EXPENDABLES, and SCOTT PILGRIM (both satisfying films to different degrees), taking on EAT, PRAY, LOVE, which is being sold as the ultimate chick flick.
In an attempt to be open-minded, I decided to check out EAT, PRAY, LOVE, to see whether or not its the vacuous travelogue it`s being sold as, or whether it has a little more substance. The answer is nope, it's just as phony, and vacuous as it looks.
You see, EAT, PRAY, LOVE aspires to be more than a chick flick. While I wasn't exactly expecting THE RAZOR'S EDGE, considering it's coming from the talented Ryan Murphy (I openly enjoy both GLEE, and, especially, the all-time trash-ter-piece that is NIP/TUCK), I at least thought EAT, PRAY, LOVE would be a decent, maybe even thought provoking film.
Technically, it's not all THAT bad. Murphy's shot it well, and the cast is top notch. I'm not a massive Julia Roberts fan, but at times she can be outstanding (ERIN BROKOVICH). Considering that she's got both Richard Jenkins, and Javier Bardem supporting her in two key roles, one cannot complain about the calibre of acting on display.
The problem, and this is a BIG one, is that EAT, PRAY, LOVE is maybe the shallowest film I've ever seen- and that's coming from someone who had to sit through SEX & THE CITY 2. I've never read Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir (although I have entertained the notion of picking up the male equivalent, DRINK, PLAY, F*CK), but from what I understand, Gilbert financed her trip through a large advance from her publisher. This is not used in the film, and as it plays out, Robert's seemingly ditches her husband because he's not sure about his career goals. Seriously.
No sooner does she ditch this perfectly nice guy before hopping into the sack with James Franco's character, who's probably the only other person in the film who's as shallow as Roberts. From that point on, we get a half hour of them spouting New Agey cliches at each other like why won't you give me the chance to miss you? Ugh...
Things don't get much better in the first leg of her trip, when we get to spend another half hour (this film runs an oppressive 140 minutes) watching Julia eat her way through Rome. This at least has some nice scenery, but I found it a little shortsighted the way this movie makes it seem all people do in Rome is eat, and ride Vespas.
Luckily, things pick up a lot during her trip to India, especially once Richard Jenkins enters the fray as a Texan she meets at an ashram. Jenkins, while spouting a lot of cheesy, folksy wisdom, is great as always, and a powerful scene where he reveals some demons from his past is the only time this film really came close to being good.
From there- we head to Bali, and the LOVE part of the title. While there, she meets up with the wealthy Javier Bardem, and of course, falls in love. Yet, all is not initially well, as Julia apparently needs to love herself more before she can be truly happy- leading to the immortally bad line I don't have to love you to prove I love myself! You see, the person Julia really falls in love with in this film is herself- which is a unique (and incredibly entitled and egocentric) spin on the romance genre.
Which leads to my ultimate, inescapable problem with the film. Julia may love herself, but I didn't love Julia. You'd imagine that after taking such an eye opening trip, someone would learn something about the pleasure of being with other people. Yet, this film is all me, me, me, me, me all the time, and close to two and a half hours spent with this extremely entitled woman gets rather tiresome. While this does have a brief tacked on plot where she helps buy a woman in Bali a home (see- nothing a little cash can't fix), you never for a second believe her character has learned anything, and thus is doomed to eventually repeat the same mistakes that led her to take the trip in the first place. I suppose this will lead to the inevitable follow up, EAT MORE, PRAY MORE, LOVE MORE. Hopefully Oprah will like it...
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