Directed by Ryan Murphy
After a trip to Bali for a magazine article, author Liz Gilbert (Roberts) decides she’s not quite sure whether her marriage is working out, and after separating from her husband (Billy Crudup), she then moves in with James Franco’s David, a New York actor who turns to prayer when times are tough. For whatever reason, Liz doesn’t think David is right for her either, so she plans a trip to three places where she thinks she’ll be able to find herself: Italy, India then returning to Bali.
From the very opening of this movie, we’re given very little reason to like Liz Gilbert, let alone listen to her endless philosophical monologues used as voiceover to introduce each setting, but it comes down to whether one likes Julia Roberts enough to buy this deeply-flawed character. We’re never given much of a reason for her to leave either man earlier in the movie, except that it’s par for the course for a woman who constantly puts herself ahead and above everyone else around here. What it comes down to is that Liz is hopelessly self-involved, and women who have been brainwashed by her philosophies to “live their own lives” seem to overlook the fact that 95% of the world’s population are capable of finding their own identity while maintaining a relationship.
Every few minutes, Liz starts having flashbacks to her ex-husband and former boyfriend, most likely out of guilt, and deservedly so, considering how she left them. Later in the movie, she meets a Texan man (played by Richard Jenkins) while meditating in India, and he urges Liz to forgive herself. Not that the audience will have forgiven her behavior, particularly breaking up with David then traveling to India to meditate with the guru he introduced her to. How selfish is that?
When Liz’s story packs its bags and moves to Italy, that’s the best part of the film, because it’s quite engaging and remains fairly light-hearted, although this is the most like a European film with lots of scenes of beautiful people sitting around a table eating the most perfectly lit food and talking about things that few people ever talk about in mixed company.
Otherwise, the movie constantly wallows in its own manipulative abundance of sentimentality, and it’s all over the place in tone, constantly stifling any chance of levity with more mopey dialogue from any number of characters. The best the movie can do in that regard is to have adorable ancient medicine man in Bali who is constantly overused to try to get smiles in the last act.
More than anything, “Eat Pray Love” features Julia Roberts’ most generic phoned-in performance of her career. Not only is she unable to create a character even remotely sympathetic, she often brings the entire movie down by essentially playing the same things we’ve seen her do in every single previous movie. Similarly, Crudup and Franco have both done much better work, and neither seems to be bringing much to their roles. For the most part, all the men in this movie are overly-sensitive demasculated eunuchs, which may be why Gilbert has so much trouble staying with them, since none of them have the balls to slap her upside the head when she starts talking crazy.
When Liz finally encounters Javier Bardem’s Felipe, an overly-sensitive Brazilian divorcee, he seems to be the perfect man… again. While they both have to face up to their fears of falling in love, Liz is unable to fight her own urges to be selfish, leading to an ugly third act squabble. The only two actors who come out of the movie relatively unscathed are Jenkins and Viola Davis as Liz’s close friend, but even they aren’t doing their best work since they’re constantly being dragged down by Murphy letting Roberts run the show.
With “Eat Pray Love,” Murphy has made a slick commercial movie that’s all about the travelogue-style eye candy and the food porn. At best, it’s boring, at worst, it’s depressing, and never in the 2 1/2 hours do you feel Gilbert has learned a thing from her journey. Women certainly will want to dismiss this review due to the gender of this reviewer, but the fact I got more emotional watching “The Karate Kid” than anything in this movie–Jenkins’ moving story is one of the few exceptions–is rather telling on how poorly this movie works as a drama.
Maybe women with nothing else going on for them can embrace Gilbert’s ideologies, but one expects these are the same daydreamers who find Bella Swan’s three-way relationship with supernatural creatures to be romantic rather than sad and pathetic. Not surprisingly, I hated this movie as much as I did the first “Twilight.” At least that movie was based in fantasy, but the fact Gilbert, Murphy and Roberts have the nerve to pass this story off as any sort of reality is quite deplorable.
The Bottom Line: