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USA 2010
Directed by
Ryan Murphy
133 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
1.5 stars

Eat Pray Love

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 lack of restraint. Really, the film's title should have been warning enough.

Based on an autobiographical best-selling book 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, takes up with handsome but under-achieving younger guy 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 who serves up glib cliches of Italianness, a rosy depiction of an Indian ashram (the real ashram in which Gilbert stayed is in a dust-covered, ramshackle village north of Mumbai) and a seductive image of Bali as a tropical idyll, which it was perhaps once but is now, probably due to the success of the book, over-run with tourists and tens of thousands of motor scooters,

Everywhere she goes Liz meets English-speaking people with whom she has a wonderful and/or meaningful time and becomes best friends (her interlude with Richard Jenkins in the ashram is particularly unconvincing)  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 evaporatjng in order to smooth the way for the glorious, wish-fulfilling happy ending (and as per the prologue presumably, a long marriage). 

One can only hope that the novel was a heck of a lot better than this screen adaptation which has acquired a pop cultural reputation as an especially risible example of the chick-flick genre.




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