Movies

Movie Review: “Eat Pray Love”

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Even without having read Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir, “Eat Pray Love,” moviegoers can still have something to look forward to in the film adaptation. At the very least, this film should bear resemblance to Diane Lane’s sunny journey in “Under the Tuscan Sun,” or as pleasant and heartwarming as this year’s travelogues, “Leap Year” and “Letters to Juliet.”

World-travel, on its own, has always had an amazing appeal – learning about different routes of life, history, art, culture, architecture, people, food, and experiencing the kindness of strangers along the way. Born and raised in Indonesia, I was one of those kids who dreamed to travel around the world and believed that there’s something more out there for me.

While the story has all the ingredients of a best-selling book, the film is overwhelmingly underwhelming, not to mention running long past its time for this type of tale. Broken down into three segments (or four, if you count the prologue in New York) – Italy, India, Bali – it sweeps the details of Gilbert’s (Julia Roberts’) life events under the glossy cover.

Roberts (bless her heart), with her warmth and down-to-earth vibe, does the best she can and hopes that we will root for her. The backstory with the husband (Billy Crudup) doesn’t depict the struggles and fights, those irreconcilable differences in a marriage that would lead to her exit. Instead, it’s as if Gilbert wakes up one day and decides she’s fallen out of love.  The only moment where I could feel the emptiness she feels about her life is during her desperate prayer. This is a moment where she asks for guidance from above to tell her what to do.

Hopping into an affair right after the split with her husband, Gilbert jumps into a relationship with a young Broadway actor that looks like James Franco. All her life she’s always in some sort of relationship, so this is not surprising.

The film fails to mention that Gilbert received payment in advance for her globe trotting from her publisher, and it does beg the question whether she would have gone without it. It makes the reality less ‘authentic’ than if she would “go for broke” and embark on the quest “just because.”

A soul-searching journey, the longing to discover more about oneself and something greater resonates well, especially these days where it’s easy to become disillusioned.

Italy embodies the “eat” portion of the book and is a feast for foodies. Aside from the historic ruins and language, the parade of good food and fine wine showcases Italy as a culinary marvel. The hilarious hand-gestures and wee-hours of the morning of Thanksgiving dinner highlight this sojourn. It is true that there’s a difference between pleasure and merely entertainment.

India, “pray,” is in stark contrast to Italy. From the slum to the ashram, it’s certainly a contrast to Italy. India is where the human connections seem most genuine. There’s a moment in time where Gilbert connects with an Indian girl being thrown into an arranged marriage. There are meaningful walks and talks with Richard (Richard Jenkins), an American from Texas who shares his painful past and relationship with his family.

Here Gilbert learns that just because she is at the center of a sacred place, it doesn’t necessarily mean that she would feel more present. All the meditation and devotion won’t do anything as long as she’s in the pity-party mode. Harmony and happiness are not to be pursued; they’re already inside if only she could clear her mind and heart, trust and let things happen.

The beauty of Bali, “love,” is shown through the rain-forests, terraced rice paddies and tropical flowers. Gilbert re-connects with Ketut Liyer, a Balinese palm-reader and healer who she met previously. She gets to know Wayan, a divorced woman with her daughter. Wayan treats Gilbert’s leg injury after her bike was nearly run over by a jeep-driving Brazilian, Felipe (Javier Bardem). Felipe is her soon-to-be lover and husband, which all seems a little out of nowhere and a bit rushed.

In the end, “Eat Pray Love” is passable but not palatable enough. When the interactions among the characters are not believable, it’s hard to care. Instead of genuine emotional healing and spiritual awakening, Gilbert is simply swimming along from on set of events to another. “Eat Pray Love” is more of a romanticized travelogue, rather than a truly transformative one.

Copyright (c) 2010. Nathalia Aryani

"Nathalia Aryani is a film columnist and has a movie blog, The MovieMaven (sdmoviemaven.blogspot.com). Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at indotransserv@gmail.com."

11 Comments

  1. Meredith

    August 16, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    ” Instead, it’s as if Gilbert wakes up one day and decides she’s fallen out of love.”

    If you read the book, that’s pretty much what happened. She came to the realization that she wasn’t in lovve with her husband and didn’t want to be married. I kind of wish there was more of an explanation as well but life doesn’t always provide them. Maybe it would have been nice for the movie to create one but I am glad they stayed true to the book.

  2. Carolyn

    August 16, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    I looked forward to this movie since I saw Julia Roberts on Oprah. I was very disappointed walking out of the movie. I thought as the critic did, this seemed to be more shallow and less meaningful. I expected to feel emotions deep inside and all I felt was sleepy. It was quite superficial and not worth the time or the money to see at the theater.

  3. penny villa

    August 16, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    THIS MOVIE WAS GREAT, WENT TO SEE IT WITH TWO OF MY ADULT CHILDREN AND A GRANDAUGHTER , EACH OF US ACCORDING TO WHERE WE ARE IN OUR LIVES AND WHAT WE HAVE BEEN THROUGH GOT MULTITUDES OF THINGS OUT OF THIS MOVIE AND WE ALL LOVED IT IT WAS AWESOME. WE ALL READ THE BOOK FIRST, IT WAS AN AWESOME ADAPTATION.
    PENNY VILLA

  4. Leyla

    August 16, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    I loved it, I believe you can wake up one morning and realize the person your with is completly the wrong one and you want out. I felt her, and then when she danced with him and she was finding forgiveness for herself, I knew what it all meant…I loved the movie!…I think anybody who has been divorced…not because of an affair, or fighting so much but because you felt incomplete with that person, can relate.

  5. Regina

    August 16, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    I laughed, cried, and identified with Liz/Julia. I didn’t read the book, too New Age for me. I just wanted to see the places: Italy, India and Bali. I wanted to see a Julia Roberts movie and was not disappointed.

  6. janet

    August 16, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    What was the Italian word that she used to describe herself?

  7. Anonymous

    August 16, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    atraversiamos

  8. Rachel

    August 16, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    Harsh criticisms! I felt inspired seeing Liz get up and travel the world. Women face real obstacles in traveling the world — from safety concerns to gender roles, women travelers have a ton to consider.

    On Pink Pangea (http://www.pinkpangea.com), the first online community for women travelers, women share the way they dealt with these issues and made it around the world despite them. I only wish Liz had done the same!

  9. Phrynster

    August 17, 2010 at 4:43 am

    This movie is another example of commercial vampirism. READ THE BOOK and ‘get into’ the color of inspirational literature (albeit a folly of sorts….I appreciate relatable escapism). Don’t buy the Eat Love Pray candles, or perfume, or clothing. Hollywood is (once again!) sucking dollars out of your pocket / preying on women who dance with romance…..Get yourself a nice pedicure and watch travel shows. Get a passport. Sell old gold jewelry. Fly off-season (November) to Rome . By the way, Julia Roberts , like the author, earns a big yawn. Enjoyed the book BUT , was it a contemplated effort to tap into our bucket list?????

  10. lizziebell

    August 17, 2010 at 5:41 am

    I was very disappointed in the movie and walked out in “Rome.” I have never walked out of a movie before, but this film was so full of cliches that I just couldn’t stand it!

  11. Movie Reviews

    October 23, 2010 at 10:51 pm

    Other movie reviews can now be found at The MovieMaven site (click on “Movie Reviews” link) above.

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