Film: Eat Pray Love (2010)
Director: Ryan Murphy
Cast: Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem, James Franco, Richard Jenkins, Billy Crudup
Screenplay: Ryan Murphy, Jennifer Salt (based on the book by Elizabeth Gilbert)
“I'm sick of people telling me that I need a man.”
I agree. What this post-divorce, emotionally-turmoiled, sobbing-in-the-toilet, broken woman needs instead is a scriptwriter. And one without Liz’s brand of writer’s block, please.
Eat Pray Love is a film with picturesque locations, empty words and characters who could have been, but aren’t. It’s not just a disappointing watch – it’s plain boring, where characters are caricatured, events stereotypical and ideas unrealistic. The film, made after the runaway success of the original Elizabeth Gilbert memoir and an Oprah recommendation, has Gilbert (Roberts) playing the victim of the big C.
Not that big C. Pfft! If only this movie could go that deep. The lone remotely traumatic event in its two hours is an unthawed turkey for the Thanksgiving dinner. The protagonist, I meant, is a commitment-phobe, though the movie would want you to believe it’s the men who run away. A self-important woman sobs for no apparent reason, then divorces her husband (Crudup), rushes in and out of a rebound romance (Franco), travels the world for pleasure (Rome, random Indian small town and Bali) and finally finds love in Felipe (Bardem). It’s worse than it sounds.
With a story the audience already liked, two Academy Award winning actors (Roberts and Bardem) and Brad Pitt (producer, but still!), the film had in fact a lot going for it before release. Robert’s comeback to the industry was hugely anticipated and her conversion to Hinduism while shooting upped the hype a great deal. But the end product falls flat on its face with the story’s lack of coherence. Gilbert bleats (incessantly) like a lost lamb who’s forgotten that she deserted the herd. And even if you would rather gaze at the picture perfect frames the movie is bursting at its seams with – gorgeous food in
Rome, crowded streets in India and the quiet beauty of Bali – you really can’t cut out the bleating for long.
Storytelling 101? Conflict and resolution. This film’s climax happens so unexpectedly that you begin to doubt the existence of any conflict at all. Which is why the makers should probably pull out an old DVD of Under the Tuscan Sun (2003) based on Frances Mayes’ memoirs and starring
Diane Lane. A story on almost identical plot lines, Lane’s poignant portrayal is of a woman who learns she can be right and wrong. Something Gilbert does not. While she does go through the motions of self discovery, her heart and soul are far away in the busy streets of , probably working out an advance on her soon-to-be bestseller. New York
Gilbert’s search “for everything in
Italy, India and ” is eventually, just about the ‘I’. Eat Pray Love fails to even be a saccharine dripping love story. The worst kind of film at the end of which you want your money back. Indonesia
So it’s both a thumbs down and up for one of the most awaited films of 2010. Down because it reinforces the notion of books making bad screenplays. And up because only a really bad film like this can make you appreciate a good one.