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Eat Pray Love
USA 2010
Directed by Ryan Murphy
Running time 133 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
1.5 stars


Watching Eat Pray Love is like eating a box of sweet pastries in one sitting. One would have been fine, two excessive but the whole lot will make you nauseous. Not just at the intake of sugar and fat but at your poor judgement. Really the film's title should have been warning enough.

Based on a best-selling novel by Elizabeth Gilbert about a writer (Julia Roberts) who, suffering from a feeling of emotional and spiritual emptiness, divorces her husband, Stephen (Billy Crudup), has a relationship with a much younger man (James Franco) then spends a year living in Italy, India and Bali in search of her Self.

What can you say about a film that is so wanting in dramatic texture as to amount to little more than a travelogue infused with a couch fantasy of self-discovery?  Julia Roberts was well-chosen to play the lead.  Although at 43 starting to look a little drawn, she is the ideal point of identification for the film’s 30+ female target demographic as she ditches her handsome but irresolute husband (Crudup), takes up with handsome but under-achieving younger guy (Franco) before getting serious with handsome and passionate Latin lover (Javier Bardem). Along the way she visits picturesque places, eating in Italy, praying in India and finally, of course, loving in Bali.

Despite the top drawer cast, high-toned production values and fabulously scenic locations all this is realized with numbing coffee-table vapidity by director and co-writer Ryan Murphy. Everywhere she goes Liz meets English-speaking people with whom she has a wonderful and/or meaningful time and becomes best friends. Yes, she does tear up occasionally but that’s what chicks do, right? About 45 minutes of this is bearable but why anyone thought it deserved 133 of them is beyond comprehension, particularly as the film gets less credible as it progresses. Even the few elements of dramatic potential, notably Liz's relationship with Stephen are glossed over, the latter's supposed undying love conveniently evaporatijng in order to smooth the way for the glorious, wish-fulfilling happy ending (as per the prologue presumably, a lomg marriage).  One can only hope that the novel was a heck of a lot better.

 

 

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