EAT PRAY LOVE - Eat Pray, Stay Away
EAT PRAY LOVE (romance drama)
Cast: Julia Roberts, James Franco, Richard Jenkins, Viola Davis, Billy Crudup, Javier Bardem, Tuva Novotny, Ali Khan, Lidia Biondi, Christine Hakim and Hadi Subiyanto
Director: Ryan Murphy
Writers: Ryan Murphy, and Jennifer Salt from the book by Elizabeth Gilbert
Time: 135 mins
Rating: * 1/2 (out of 4)
PREAMBLE: I have not read the book by Elizabeth Gilbert but I understand it is about a woman's self-discovery that is aimed at empowering its female readers. The book is a best-seller. The movie, co-written and directed by Ryan Murphy, is nothing more than a travelogue and food guide; it is at times boring and repugnant, especially to male viewers.
Watching Eat Pray Love is like having to watch a friend's home movie about his/her recent travels. Usually, one is fed a nice dinner by the host before the ordeal. Not so, with this overdrawn, 'self-absorbed' movie.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Liz Gilbert (Julia Roberts) has everything any woman would dream about - loving husband (Billy Crudup), a house and a successful career in New York. However, she feels dissatisfied and files for divorce. After a brief fling with a struggling actor (James Franco), she embarks on a journey around the world that is meant to be her quest for self-discovery. She discovers the true pleasure of nourishment by eating in Italy; the power of prayer in India, and, finally and unexpectedly, the inner peace and balance of true love in Indonesia's Bali.
HITS & MISSES: Even with the likeable Roberts playing the protagonist, it is difficult to sympathise with Liz, a self-centred woman who wantonly uses men to spice up her life and spits them out after she is done with them. This is particularly true with both her husband Stephen and actor boyfriend David. Director Ryan Murphy (who gave us Glee and the Nip/Tuck series) makes the mistake of delving longer into Liz's New York romps than is necessary, and making Liz's character more detestable.
The Rome and Naples sequences, which are supposed to show how Liz learns to live alone, be self-reliant - and enjoy her food (the 'Eat' of the title), only manages to depict her loneliness despite being in the company of a bunch of friends. In India, where she is supposed to meditate, Pray and find spiritual devotion, she again finds a soul-mate in a man, an elderly Texan played by Richard Jenkins. The Bali section, where Liz is supposed to find Love, involves two more men - the shaman Ketut (Hadi Subiyanto) and the dashingly rugged Brazilian, Fillipe (Javier Bardem). This leaves us with the nagging question, would the spiritually-empty Liz ever find Happiness anywhere?
I have no issues with Roberts' portrayal of Liz. She turned the controversial Erin Brokovich into a heroine and won an Oscar for it in 2001. However, the scripters have made Liz such a shallow and self-indulgent character that even Roberts' charm could not save her. Bardem looks pathetic in a thankless role of the traditional Latin lover. And of course, it is unforgivable of Murphy to stretch and drag this travelogue to nearly two-and-a-half hours, complete with self-serving sermons, banal philosophy and half-baked romances.
THE LOWDOWN: Eat, Pray, Stay Away.