Movie Review: Eat Pray Love (2010)
Eat Pray Love is about the romantic-philosophical journey of one attractive woman named Liz Gilbert (Julia Roberts). Liz, like so many other women, only wishes she had a better idea of who she is.
Liz wants happiness and success. She’s no lesbian in denial, either. She wants a happy life with the man of her dreams. She wants a wonderful wedding and cake to go with. She worries about her jeans fitting too tightly, and she stays in shape. She loves handsome men, and with regard to ambition, she sees herself latching onto something better. And that’s the problem; for some reason, nothing is ever good enough. She’s not happy. Things aren’t right. She knows that.
Watching, I couldn’t help but notice how much of a perfect candidate Liz is for conversion to a cult. It’s the highly intelligent seekers the cults are after. Those who decide to go out and “find” the meaning of life often do “find” it, but sometimes with hurt to themselves and those they love. Bottom line: Liz has to find her own way.
Deciding to divorce her husband Stephen (Billy Crudup) in a sudden move, and thereafter dumping a charming new lover (James Franco), Liz decides to travel to Italy to learn how to live. From there, she visits India and learns to pray and to meditate, and to love—herself and then others. If you can’t love yourself, there’s no need trying to love someone else, is there?
The long but moving story of this woman in her search for the meaning of self-identity, God, and happiness I felt deeply. Seeing this poor soul in struggle reminded me of myself during my search for the meaning of life, which led to my embracement and subsequent rejection of Christianity for atheism. It was the most painful journey of my life.
I share that only because the inner-turmoil and depression of feeling out of place, of feeling that you don’t belong, is a tough phase to go through. It is like a bitter divorce or a death in the family. Anything that results in the building up or tearing down of a belief structure promises to bring pain—a pain I very well know and can relate to.
Roberts really wanted this role. She believed in the role, and it shows. The question is: will most romance movie admirers be interested in it? Yes, if you can relate to the struggle. No, if you cannot. Neither the romance, nor the mood is carefree. It is not for the jovial or the fickle. There are no big and comforting clichés with New York taxicab meet-ups, feisty wit stand-offs, sweetheart outings, or lengthy smooch scenes between two cupie-dolls who are of the mind to go clubbing.
It is about love for the marred and mature, about “getting older” love. It is about watching friends eat pizza – lots of pizza – and about two girls buying bigger jeans to wear. It is about stopping to pray before a meal. It is about learning to clear your head and meditate and about learning to forgive yourself. It is about learning to be selfless enough to know that you won’t find your place in life until you know the satisfaction of a selfless love that exists not because you were told it should, but because you came to the conclusion that you deeply want it to.
It is well acted, but with the exception of Roberts' performance, not remarkably so. The film is certainly long, and the romance it offers will no doubt come up short for the majority of romance-minded viewers. The characters stand out, mainly because they were created to, which almost makes them seem a bit odd the longer you see them interact. But they work. The drama works. The romance, well, I can’t make that call. I still haven’t decided if I “felt it” as intended, but maybe that is because we’ve come to expect stupid and cheap in our romance viewing. Maybe this is the standard to be measured against?
Ryan Murphy, the brilliant creator of the TV series Nip/Tuck brings you Eat Pray Love, a turbulent movie of largely esoteric value. I felt enough. Of that I am certain. The mysticism didn’t bother me, but the meaning took me back. I sympathized. I even cried—for myself and for Liz. I cried again writing this review because of what it made me reflect on. I’ve come to the end of my journey and have my enlightenment. This is all there is.
Grade: B- (3 stars)
Rated: PG-13 (on appeal for brief strong language, some sexual references and male rear nudity)
Director: Ryan Murphy
Summary: Realizing she is in an unhappy marriage, a woman takes a trip around the world to find herself.
Starring: Julia Roberts "Liz Gilbert," I. Gusti Ayu Puspawati "Nyomo," Hadi Subiyanto "Ketut Liyer," Billy Crudup "Stephen," Viola Davis "Delia Shiraz," A. Jay Radcliff "Andre," Mike O'Malley "Andy Shiraz," James Franco "David Piccolo"
Genre: Romance / Drama