Mark Reviews Movies

EAT PRAY LOVE

1 ˝ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Ryan Murphy

Cast: Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem, Richard Jenkins, James Franco, Hadi Subiyanto, Viola Davis, Billy Crudup

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for brief strong language, some sexual references and male rear nudity)

Running Time: 2:13

Release Date: 8/13/10


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Review by Mark Dujsik | August 12, 2010

I spent a lot of Eat Pray Love wondering, How does she afford to pay for all of this? Liz Gilbert (Julia Roberts) gets divorced, loses at least half of her worth in the settlement, then runs off for a year-long trip to Italy, India, and Bali, where she spends money all willy-nilly on lodging, food, clothes, and trinkets in a guru's gift shop. She does all of this, from the movie's reasoning, off the income she's made from a self-indulgent, off-Broadway show in a tiny theater that loses two audience members (a good percentage, considering the size of the house) who think the play is crap.

It's a thought I had often because something about Liz's journey to self-discovery feels off.

Then I read that the real Elizabeth Gilbert, on whose memoir the movie is based, paid for her three-stop trip using the money she received for an advance on the book she was going to write about the trip. That's when things start to fall into place.

Now I'm not suggesting—nor would I ever suggest—that Gilbert did not go to these places, do these things, and meet these people, but I am fairly sure that had Gilbert gone on this trip, wrote the book, and then got paid for it, the story would be a bit different. The lessons of the movie adaptation of Eat Pray Love are pat and generalized. They are not the teachings one would find for oneself but things out of a self-help book. They feel planned.

The story is divided cleanly into three acts that conveniently correspond to the three verbs of the title with a prologue. Liz divorces the aimless Stephen (Billy Crudup), eats in Rome, prays in Kolkata, and loves in Bali.

Roberts never conveys a true sense of rock-bottom, and she is regularly shown up by Richard Jenkins as Richard from Texas, who talks in "bumper sticker" (He's not the only one) at a guru's in India, and Javier Bardem as Felipe, the guy she meets/hates/loves in Bali. In their shorter screen time, both manage to express a lost soul honestly looking for healing.

The narrative is messy, flashbacking to her marriage and a troubled affair with a younger actor David (James Franco). Focusing on guilt for the divorce makes sense, but the bits slowly revealing how terrible her relationship with David became before she left doesn't. It's material for the prologue weighing down the journey.

The journey isn't much, either, though. Robert Richardson's glossy cinematography makes every locale look the same. Eat Pray Love fails as genuine travelogue and honest growth.

Copyright © 2010 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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