Tuesday, September 21, 2010

EAT PRAY LOVE (2010)

Written by Ryan Murphy & Jennifer Salt


Directed by Ryan Murphy



Where & When: Pacific's The Grove Stadium 14, Los Angeles, CA.  September 14.2010 12:10PM




What do you do when you wake up one day and find yourself depressed, miserable and unhappy?

Well, perhaps you would just abandon your family and travel the world for a year until you find peace, tranquility and happiness.

Now, I don't think that would be the average person's solution but that is the premise of this based on a true story film by Elizabeth Gilbert who decided to do just that.

Julia Roberts plays Ms Gilbert, a well-paid free-lance writer who has been married to Steven (Billy Crudup) for eight years. Although he seems like a nice guy, she has been unhappy for a while and one evening she goes into her bathroom and decides to pray to God for the answer. She returns to bed and informs her husband that she needs to end their marriage.

Later, Elizabeth confides to her best friend and editor, Delia (Viola Davis) that she has just begun seeing a younger man named, David (James Franco) an actor and although she is not looking for anything serious, she is enjoying her time with him.

Soon, Elizabeth grows tired of the affair and informs Delia that she needs to take a year to travel around in order to get back in touch with herself and to be without a man in her life. Her plan is to spend four months in Italy, four months in India and the last four in Indonesia, which makes up the three words in the title.

Eat: Elizabeth arrives in Rome, Italy where she proceeds to eat lots of pasta, learns to speak Italian, eat lots of pizza, makes friends with fun and interesting people and eat lots of gelato. By the end, she can no longer button her jeans but at least she is very happy.

Pray: Elizabeth is now in India trying to awaken herself spiritually as she stays at an Indian ashram. She initially is having difficulty while she is there but she meets Richard (Richard Jenkins), a Texan who helps her with allowing her mind to free up all of the clutter in her head.

Love: Elizabeth has arrived in Bali near the end of her journey. She meets Felipe (Javier Bardem), a handsome and successful Brazilian businessman. He is also divorced and has a grown son. The couple soon grow very close but when things start to get too serious, Elizabeth behaves like a caged animal.

Will she comes to her senses or will she let another man slip through her well-manicured fingers?

I'm not sure what happened here because you are combining a best selling novel, one of the biggest movie-stars in the world and a super-hot writer/director but this film just falls flat and feels very long.

Although I didn't finish reading the memoir (I'm only about a quarter through it) but as I was reading it, I became concerned and after seeing the film, it was confirmed: this book is just too interior to work properly as cinema. In the book, Ms Gilbert is able to go in to great detail in order to justify her reasons for abandoning her husband and how she had to travel for a year in order to find herself. In the film version, she just has a few voice-over narration scattered throughout and because of that, the character comes across as selfish, scattered and misguided.  As I was sitting through this, I certainly didn't find myself rooting for the Ms Gilbert character to have a happy ending.

It was a wise move to cast Julia Roberts in the lead part because her mere presence comes as short hand of a well established charming personality but even this actress is unable to overcome the obstacle of this character's sometime abhorrent behaviour despite all of Ms Roberts' efforts and dazzling smile.

Mr. Murphy, who has found recent success with the hit television show, "Glee", made his feature film debut with another memoir, Augusten Burroughs' "Running With Scissors" (2006), which I had actually read before seeing the cinematic version and thoroughly enjoyed. That film did not do that book any justice at all and it shares the exact same problems that "Eat Pray Love" has in which that all of the things that made these books rich and titillating reads have pretty much been whittled away. This just left the basic skeleton of the each story to be filmed and just led to a dull, easily digested Hollywood movie.

Now, I realize that not everything in a book can possibly be filmed and in fact, altering the story somewhat can actually enhance a film greatly but I just don't think that was accomplished nearly enough to help make this a solidly entertaining film.

I have to say "Eat Prat Love" looks great, thanks to the work of Oscar-winning cinematographer ("The Aviator" (2004), Robert Richardson who beautifully shot this film, most especially the Italian section were he made the already captivating Rome seem even more stunning and made all of the food look so mouth-watering delicious. You can certainly say that he will be the one directly responsible for an increase in tourism to any one of these countries.

If you are looking for a satisfying escapist fantasy, I suggest you go buy and read the book "Eat Pray Love" and skip this filmed version.