Eat Pray Love (Ryan Murphy, 2010) Eat Pray Love wants to be unconventional—it practically begs to be seen as revolutionary in its philosophy and presentation—but it is so thoroughly conventional that one wonders why they didn't just bother re-running another chick-travel film, about "finding oneself" only to turn the idea on its ear and make it about finding "the right man." Three Coins in the Fountain, anyone?
I need another one of those like a fish needs a bicycle.
Don't get me wrong. I'm glad author Elizabeth Gilbert (played here by Julia Roberts) had her little adventure after a divorce from her peacock of a husband (Billy Crudup) and an affair with an actor (James Franco...gee, both good life-choices picking the self-absorbed—Does that say anything?). It's tough to work up any real sympathy for her as she has the funds, the time and the wherewithal to spend a year in Italy ("Eat"), India ("Pray"), and Bali ("Loooove"). Good on ya, Liz. Hope you do a lot of charity work. Because a lot of the folks who took care of your needs during the trip couldn't afford a journey like that, and, frankly, don't have the time and luxury to "find oneself, " they're too busy just trying to "deal."
I know; bad attitude. I should go in "open" and "ready to receive." Fact is, I'd be buying it if the author were trying to go from self-absorbed to self-actualizing, but she can't seem to construct a sentence (when she thinks long enough to not just "pop off") that doesn't have the word "I" in it.* I suppose I should be happy that she goes to these places, rather than just having the world revolve around her to get there.
But the damned thing is such a cheat. She escapes two failed relationships only to plunge into one at the end (Ooooh...big "spoiler" alert!), as if that is what is needed in her life, and it doesn't occur to her observing the arranged marriages and the servile populaces that her ability to have a choice is the best thing she has going for her, and that the ability to say "no"—to high calorie meals, to collective brain-washing, to pushy men—does "no" good unless it is actually utilized, rather than ignored for indulgence. All she lost was a year of her time. What she found...well, that's a good question.
Murphy also does some indulging—in over-editing this travelogue—you can't pick up a menu and order without unnecessarily seeing the food being prepared in the next shot, item by item—although Robert Richardson's photography manages to make it all blend seamlessly together despite the various styles he uses. And the performances are heart-felt, especially Franco and Richard Jenkins and Javier Bardem—funny, that she doesn't get romantically involved with Jenkins' brashly wise Texan (who is the most moving person in the piece), could it be that he isn't attractive enough? It's one of the things that makes you suspect how facile this movie is,** and that the protagonist only swims in the shallow end of the pool.
Ultimately, it's a movie that makes you go "how nice for you," while thinking that it's wasted two hours of your own valuable life. That's right. The world doesn't revolve around her. It revolves around me.
|Elizabeth Gilbert, enjoying her residuals. Lesson learned.|
* At a "Thanksgiving Dinner" in Italy, the table goes 'round counting their blessings, which involve other people and they are nice and heart-felt, then it goes to Liz, who thanks that she's surrounded by a table full of wonderful people (Good start, Liz), then finishes by saying "she's the luckiest girl in the world." It's all about her.
** Other things that annoyed me: the Theme from "Last Tango in Paris" is a signature theme for Italy. Really? In fact, the whole soundtrack is chock-a-block with songs of western culture that nullify any depth of feeling for the places.