Pi reviews EAT PRAY LOVE (2010)
In the interest of fairness, I should disclose my predisposed feelings towards this film.
I despised it. It possessed all of the attributes I hate about a film. It was billed as an inspirational, feel good film, carefully advertised and positioned as Oscar bait. This usually means it will be insipid tripe, that will pander incessantly to it’s audience and generally annoy the fuck out of me and inspire righteous venom. On top of that, it not only stars Julia Roberts, but it was her personal vanity project. Vanity projects almost always suck. Actors fall in love with some story that usually will make a shitty movie, than try to use every bit of clout to get it made and pat themselves on the back for overcoming obstacles to do so, not realizing along the way that the reason the studios didn’t snap it up before they even saw the damn thing is that because they smelled it’s stench and realized that it was a complete waste of celluloid. Not to mention that the thought of hearing Julia Roberts cackle her way through another movie made me think of preferable ways to spend an afternoon. Like driving safety pins beneath my fingernails. Like squeezing limes into my eyes. Or perhaps a sound drubbing of my testicles with a croquet mallet. There had to be something better to do, right? Well…..
When you’re stuck on a plane for 6 hours, priorities change. So I tapped my little airline iPad and dialed up Eat Pray Love.
Julia Roberts portrays Elizabeth Gilbert, a woman who has it all. A seemingly blissful marriage, beautiful home and a sucessful career as a writer. It’s all good in Gilbert’s hood, or so it would seem. While she puts on a happy face, going through the motions, things aren’t so blissful. Gilbert is having some sort of 31 year old, mid-life crisis. She’s secretly depressed, panicked and confused. She can’t understand how she ended up where she was, how everything that she thought life was supposed to be out could be so unfulfilling and sad. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking how could they have not cast Jennifer Aniston in this role. It’s perfect for her! She’s played this character a million times and nobody does frigid with the expertise and skillful craft of an Aniston. You’re right in thinking that, but unfortunately, Julia got the book and shopped it first. Plus, she’s more of a box office draw. Sickening, but true.
Anyway, Gilbert basically fucks off her life. She ditches it all. Peace out husband. I’m selling the house, taking my share of the equity and I will travel the world to find myself. The scenes setting this up are supposed to be poignant and sad. They’re not. They’re contrived and if anything, only highlight Roberts’ flaws as an actress. We’re supposed to sympathize with the character. We’re supposed to feel this overwhleming despair she’s suffering from and root for her in her quest to find herself. I didn’t feel this as all. She came off grating and annoying and I was hoping as soon as she boarded her first plane, that terrorists would leap from the seats with box cutters and slash her to ribbons. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen. That really would have been a more powerful scene and a good time to stop the film, but it continues.
So Julia arrives in Italy where she discovers a passion for food. Honestly, is there anybody out there who doesn’t like to eat good shit? Your body is wired for it, you react on a chemical level to good food. So I really don’t get why it takes going to Italy to say “yum” to something. I get she’s a big fan of pasta and all, but she couldn’t find a good Italian place domestically? And there’s these long, drawn out scenes where Julia is acting like she’s tasting spaghetti for the first time. I get the metaphor. I’m not a complete retard. She’s tasting things for the first time because now she’s free to do whatever and bloggity blah blah. It’s irritating. She stuffs her face with all the food in Italy and gains like 10 pounds. When they mentioned weight gain, two things flashed through my mind. One, Julia in the fat suit in America’s Sweethearts, a far superior film to this nonsense. Two, Julia expanding and expanding like Augustus Gloop in Charlie + The Chocolate Factory and then maybe some dwarves would play kickball with her or something. That didn’t happen either. Instead, we discover that food isn’t enough to fulfill Elizabeth Gilbert. So off to India we go.
In India, Gilbert hooks up with a strange crew. She starts hanging out with this guru and an American cowboy. Again, a contrived move. The guru spews a bunch of pseudo-spiritual hyperbole and the cowboy’s there to translate it into English for her, putting a charming, home-spun drawl on the whole thing. It’s a strange part of the movie, because it just doesn’t seem to fit. Roberts is meditating with this goofy look on her face and I can’t quite tell what she’s trying to convey. Is she pondering secrets of the universe? Does she have some sort of rash? Is she constipated? You really can’t tell and unfortunately, the film never really explains much that’s concrete out of her sojourn to India. All we know is that when it comes time for her to leave and go to the next leg of her journey, the cowboy takes the time to tell us that she’s more spirtitual now. And she’s climbing the stairway to Heaven…
So from there, Julia goes to Bali and here’s where the film actually gets fascinating. At first, you think it’s going to be more of her “discovery” and in a way it is, but what she discovers isn’t what you expect. Gilbert begins to apply what she’s learned so far and realizing that her old life was never taken to extremes, throws caution to the wind and takes her new found spirituality to new heights. Or depths as the case may be, because she takes up worshipping Shargorroth, some sort of long-forgotten, Lovecraftian deity of the wilds of Bali. As part of her Shargorroth-ian spiritual journey, Roberts begins reading the dark texts of the God, becoming enthralled with the sensuality of the binding fashioned from human flesh. Soon she starts practicing this new religion, which coincidentally allows her to engage in her other recently acquired passion of eating, specifically cannibalism. It’s pretty fascinating to see a play-it-safe actress like Julia Roberts engaging in sex rituals with goats, all while dancing around half-naked in front of some octopus statue with a human spleen clamped between her lips, yet still finding ways to let loose that spine-chilling cackle she’s so famous for. It’s almost surreal. Almost, but since you’re watching it on the screen, it kinda doesn’t fit in that definition. Anyway…
Bali is where Julia Roberts learns to love again, a different way this time. I’m not gonna spoil the ending, but think Valentine Michael Smith in Stranger In A Strange Land and you have the idea. While I was impressed with the daring third act rewrite of the original book, I’m not sure it saves the film. The pacing’s a bit off in India and the cinematography is uneven througout. It’s almost like the director employed different cameramen for every scene or let Julia Roberts’ strangely named children take turns holding the camera during certain parts. The writing’s not bad, but it’s not spectacular either. It’s a serviceable adaptation. but I have to applaud the rewrite of the third act. Sometimes, books just don’t make good movies, but you can’t tell self-involved actors that. Sometimes, you just have to make it work on the big screen and I think the screenwriters brave inclusion of cannibalism and demon worship in a Julia Roberts film is commendable.
Since I claimed full disclosure at the start of my review, I should probably conclude my review by admitting that I fell asleep during this movie and that while drifting in and out, I may have confused some of the scenes. I’m fairly certain I got the gist though. So…. Eat Pray Love. It’s definitely a movie.