The new Julia Roberts star vehicle, Eat Pray Love, is based on a bestselling memoir by Liz Gilbert (played by Roberts) who in order to ‘discover’ herself takes a year long trip to Italy, India and Bali to gorge on pasta, then find her inner spirituality and then have physical relations with Javier Bardem.
The book is, according to the New York Times, “Gilbert’s prose is fueled by a mix of intelligence, wit and colloquial exuberance that is close to irresistible”. Well if you’re looking for a film with intelligence, wit and whatever colloquial exuberance that is irresistible, you’re looking in the wrong place. This is a trite, flat, narcissistic diatribe of drivel.
Roberts plays the kind of self obsessed, wealthy socialite we all love to hate. She has a gorgeous apartment with a bathroom the size of most people’s living rooms. She shares it with her adoring, handsome partner but still feels the need, only fifteen minutes into the film, to say “I’m sick of me”, before dumping her boyfriend and jetting off round the world.
There is also a profoundly annoying premise, which has now become something of a sub genre in romantic comedies: middle class person with beautiful lifestyle and nothing to complain about, complains and learns the important lesson: loving oneself is the greatest love of all, which seems to me to be a chance for actors to take a nice holiday rather than making a thought provoking piece of drama.
In Italy, she generally enjoys life and eats lots of food in order to fulfil her boastings of female empowerment by putting on weight or as a friend says “embracing her muffin top”. However, if Julia Roberts turned sideways she would become practically non existent. No matter how much pasta she shovels down her throat she becomes no fatter, even after apparently ordering one restaurant’s entire supply of spaghetti. If only that miracle could happen to all of us.
Then she goes to India where Richard Jenkins plays an old Texan who disciplines her in the power of meditation and to reflect on life as a whole. Jenkins is a great actor but is given a thankless task of speaking psuedo Buddhist drivel, speaking entirely in fortune cookie statements such as: “One day, I think you’ll have the capacity to love the whole world” and miraculously doing it without bursting into laughter. In India she remains only 3 months, and boy does it feel like it. She then moves onto Indonesia.
In Bali, Gilbert goes to embrace love and in that embrace comes across Javier Bardem and engages sexually with him on many occasions including one instance on a beach, despite originally telling him “I don’t need to love you in order to love myself.” That doesn’t stop her. Bardem’s charisma usually brightens up most films but here I was just waiting for the moment for him to pull out a cattle gun, press it against Julia’s head and pull the trigger to silence her.
It would have also been nice had he done that so he could stop the film because at 140 minutes it is overlong to the point of full body paralysis. It is directed by Ryan Murphy, co-creator of shows Glee and Nip/Tuck who clearly needs to stay in television where the 42 minute running time does him a lot more favours, on film he needs a fearless editor.
The film just plays out like a grossly extended travelogue that would usually appear on a lifestyle channel, its primary function is to show off the locations and its good looking cast. It is saved by one or two visually nice moments by cinematographer Robert Richardson and the presence of Jenkins, other than that, avoid at arms length.
Eat Pray Love is overlong and quickly becomes tedious. It features narcissistic, inward looking characters of no interest at all and amounts to a very poorly made film.