Eat, Pray, Love,” starring Julia Roberts, premiered Aug. 13 and further hammered the nail into the coffin of the genre of romantic comedy.
Based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling narrative of self-discovery, the movie features Liz (Roberts) a travel journalist who is trapped in a less than adventurous marriage. After initiating a divorce from her unreliable husband Stephan (Billy Crudup), Liz finds a rebound romance and a lover in David (James Franco), a young and out-of-work yogi. Although the character David seems pointless when initially introduced, David influences Liz to embark on a spiritual journey that later leads her to her adventures in the Eastern Hemisphere.
When Liz realizes that she has never been alone, she decides to take a year off and travel the world. Her journey begins in Rome, where Liz eats through her loneliness, gaining weight and a “muffin top” as a souvenir. She visits next an ashram in India, where she is befriended by Richard (Richard Jenkins), a fellow American, and learns the power of prayer, meditation and forgiveness. In Bali, Liz studies with medicine man Ketut (Hadi Subiyanto), who may be best described as a human version of Yoda. During her stay, she meets the charming Felipe (Javier Bardem) who inspires her to open herself to love others and, most importantly, herself.
Liz is able to relate to natives of the different countries, cultures and customs and find that they teach her the importance of eating, praying and loving.
Director Ryan Murphy (“Glee”) is unable to make the film adaptation better than the book. With almost a commercial feel, the camera shots and the soundtrack are cliché and predictable. He is unfortunately unable to utilize the beautiful settings and cultures in a more entertaining and captivating way.
Although it is nice to see Ms. Roberts on the screen again, the humor she provides is lackluster. She is, however, able to portray emotions to which most women today can relate. The secondary characters are the stand-outs of the movie, providing comedy, realism and depth. Ms. Roberts and Mr. Bardem have great chemistry; the same can not be said for the weird chemistry between Ms. Roberts and Mr. Franco’s unimaginable and random relationship.
The film’s screenplay, written by Jennifer Salt and Ryan Murphy, drops viewers right into the middle of the plot, creating some confusion and obscuring details. Some moviegoers, for instance, might watch the entire film and still not know the name and occupation of Mr. Bardem’s character.
The best part of the film is Rome; the Italian culture and food is the highlight of the film, while India and Bali seem to blend together.
“Eat, Pray, Love” is a chick flick, with cheesy romance and a predictable ending. Fans who loved the book may only “like” the movie; fans of Ms. Roberts should enjoy the return of her laugh and smile
(at least for the first 20 minutes).
2 hrs. 13 min. Rating: PG-13
(for brief strong language, some sexual references, and partial nudity.