Movie Review: Eat Pray Love: One Woman’s Search For a Better Director

At some point in every woman’s life, and probably a man’s as well, it hits us that we don’t have any direction. We sit up and wonder how we got to this point and fondly think back about the days when you used to tell everyone that you have ambitions and dreams of traveling the world, or finding a cure for cancer. Then it hits you, you haven’t done any of that. How could you have just let yourself go like this? Liz Gilbert finds herself in this same predicament after a marriage she is not satisfied with and a short love affair after the separation that ends in a fizzle. She suddenly realizes that she has never spent any time for herself, that she had always jumped from one sinking relationship into the next without even taking a deep breath.

So, with her life in ruins, she sets off on a journey of self discovery, against her friend’s advice. She is currently working as a writer in New York and to the untrained eye, seems very happy. However, an opening scene at a book party for her shows that her husband, Stephen (Billy Crudup) is thinking of switching careers for a second time and the simple look in Liz’s (Julia Roberts) eye says it all, “How much of my life will I throw away so you can find happiness?”

Her first stop on a year long getaway is Italy. This would fill the Eat portion of the title as she learned to leave no carb behind. She spent four months in Italy, and not only explored the cities of the country, but the delicacies it had to offer: food, language, and friendship. By the end of the four months, it was her turn to show a little culture to the friends she had made and they all sat down for a feastful Thanksgiving meal.

From the calm of Italy, we are whisked away to India. She has come here to stay in the temple of a Guru she learned about with her last boyfriend. This was a harsh turnaround from Italy where she only worried if her pants were going to fit the next day. Here she had to work for her stay, which included scrubbing floors Cinderella style and eating small plates of rice or couscous with her hands. She took it in stride, but the memories of her life began to plague her here. This would be where she took hold of her mind and learned to forgive herself. Italy may have been a four month distraction from life back in New York, but India was a smack of reality of the transformation she would try to undertake.

Last, but certainly not least, she spent the remaining four months of the year on the beautiful island of Bali. She had been here briefly before on a job and had included this on her journey because of what the medicine man had told her. He said that she would be back and stay longer and teach him English and she would find herself. If you hadn’t guessed already, this would be the Love portion of the title. Without giving away the ending too much for those that haven’t read the book, it was inspiring watching her struggle with her new found knowledge from a year abroad and what her heart was now telling her.

After that, you must think that this is the most perfect getaway film for all women to enjoy this summer, right? Well, not exactly. My biggest gripe about the entire film is the way that Director Ryan Murphy (Glee) decided to spend his precious screen time. Instead of filling many more shots with the beautiful scenery that she was among, he kept the shot very tight to Julia’s face most of the time. Now, she is beautiful, and has a great smile, but Bali is more beautiful. There was no frame of reference with these shots. They could have very well been shooting on a back-lot in Hollywood. They actually did film in these gorgeous locations and that makes me even more upset. I can’t think of one shot that really captured the essence of the place that she was in. This lack of “theatre-staycation” that I was longing for only made me want to go home and read the book for a better image of these locations.

I didn’t read the book by Elizabeth Gilbert prior to the movie and I believe that films should stand alone and not be judged or compared to the book from whence they came. However, rarely has there been a movie with so much potential that it only served to make me want to read the book and forget about the film altogether. Even not reading the book, it was obvious that the screenplay rushed the story along to fit it into 2 hours and 13 minutes. For example, Italy was the longest part of the film, and I loved the pace they were taking, until they moved into India. Things started becoming rushed and at first, I thought it was to give that city feel of rush hour all the time that India has. It was obvious when her trip in India was ending and she quickly did two other things which didn’t help the story and only further confused the audience that the pacing of this film was on drugs. The last portion of the film in Bali was slowed down a little, but still felt empty as I wanted more with the scenery, with the friendships she had made there and ultimately, what the heck she did there.

Casting of the film was good. Of course, most think Julia Roberts can do no wrong, but I was actually very impressed with her acting in this one. There were moments of her in tears that nearly had me in tears as well as times of laughter at which I was laughing with her. Another fantastic standout is Viola Davis (Doubt) as the best friend, Delia. That woman speaks with a purpose and her emotions are so on target with her character, it was hard to separate the two. Billy Crudup (Almost Famous) and Javier Bardem (Vicky Christina Barcelona) were both pretty fantastic as the love interests of Julia. They both play humor and sex appeal well, as well as feeling heart-broken. I was not really impressed with James Franco as the boyfriend. He was only there as eye candy and it seemed that he didn’t really get into the character.

Even though I had a smile on my face after the film ended, it didn’t last. As I thought about the film as a whole, some loopholes started becoming obvious with the story. The cinematography and direction continued to annoy me and the score somehow had me thinking of LOST. (Now there is a show with good shots.) In the end though, it should really be about the story which is inspiring and courageous. If perhaps, all women and men could spend one year of their life traveling the globe, or donating time in a foreign land, maybe we would all be happier, well-rounded, un-divorced people.

I give Eat Pray Love 3 “better options for a director” out of 5.

by Angela Davis

*Damon Lindelof (LOST), Sofia Coppola (Lost In Translation), Wes Anderson (The Darjeeling Limited). Because they make the surroundings another character of that story.

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