On Sunday night two of my friends wanted to see Eat Pray Love, the new Julia Roberts movie based on the memoir of the same name by Elizabeth Gilbert. Having glanced through the book at Borders a while back and therefore knowing what the movie would be about, plus not being a terribly big Julia fan, I wasn’t particularly interested in seeing it. However, I played the good sport and went with them.
Here is a good logline for the film:
After divorcing her husband because he doesn’t fulfill all of her wildest dreams and make her feel “alive” every minute of the day, a selfish, self-centered woman embarks on a fling with a younger actor and when he doesn’t fulfill all of her wildest dreams either, she takes a year to stuff her face with pasta in Italy for four months, then try to meditate in India for four months, then study with a guru in Bali, where she meets a swarthy Brazilian divorcé and falls in love and doesn’t spend all that much time with the guru anymore because she’s too busy having sex.
From a production standpoint, the film is very nice to look at. The locations are real and lovingly photographed. The movie also contains a lot of witty one-liners, thanks to co-writer/director Ryan Murphy, the creator of Glee and Nip/Tuck. And props to the cinematographer, hair, makeup, and wardrobe peeps for keeping Julia Roberts perfectly groomed and dressed throughout. Sure, she looked way too glamorous to be believable in the settings her character was in, but that’s Hollywood for ya. (Even more Hollywood for ya: the amusing casting of the men in the movie. The guy who played the supposed schlub loser husband: Billy Crudup. The guy who played the young, hot, loser actor: James Franco. So who do they get to play Liz’s one true love, since clearly we’re not supposed to believe either of Crudup or Franco is man enough for Liz? Javier Bardem, one of the few actors today who can portray dangerous masculinity.)
For all the beauty of the movie, though, and all of the exhortations for us to believe that we’re watching Liz’s journey of awakening and self-discovery blah blah blah, I didn’t feel that the film was ever able to convince us (or at least me) that Liz did the right thing in ditching her husband and traveling around the world in search of ~feelings. There is a brief scene in the movie where Liz and her lawyer meet with Crudup’s character. He has decided to represent himself, because he believes that Liz is going through a phase and that she’ll eventually come to her senses and come back to him. Liz tells him they are incompatible. (Later in the movie she tells others that they got married too young and grew apart…which could possibly be believable, except that Julia Roberts is 42 and the characters were married for only 8 years.) Crudup doesn’t believe it. He loves her. They took vows for life. Exasperated that he’s not just rolling over and taking it, Liz tells him that he needs to choose a direction for his life. Apparently he killed all the tingles by dabbling too much and not committing to a life path that made buko bucks. Crudup cries, with all of the pain of a man whose love has been rejected, “YOU! I choose YOU!” To which Liz has nothing to say, because she knows she is doing a monstrous thing and wants desperately not to feel guilty about it.
That’s really what the movie boils down to: Liz’s journey to find people to entertain her so she won’t have to do any work in a relationship. She makes friends in Italy, but their relationships seem to be about constant eating and entertainment. In India she is very bad at meditating, yet she finds a cantankerous (sexually unattractive) older man to hang around with who negs her all the time. In Bali she is supposed to study with a guru, but then she meets a Brazilian who won’t leave her alone. I think we’re supposed to believe that he opens her up to love again, but it just comes off as her finding someone who makes her feel a certain way and whom she doesn’t have to do anything for in return. The really strange thing about this movie is that I thought the men were written and portrayed with deep, real honesty, while Liz was the selfish delusionoid.