MPAA Rating: PG-13/Genre: Romantic Drama/ Stars: Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem, James Franco, Richard Jenkins, Viola Davis, Billy Crudup, Sophie Thompson, Mike O’Malley, Christine Hakim, Arlene Tur, Hadi Subiyanto, Gita Reddy, Tuva Novotny, Luca Argentero, Rushita Singh/ Runtime: 133 minutes or 140 minutes (extended)
I think I should just come right out and be as honest as I possibly can with you dear reader: the slice of cinematic pie that is 2010’s Eat Pray Love is, through and through, the worst kind of cinematic mess that you can begin to imagine right down to its odd title arrangement/narrative construction. A construction that incidentally is where we see that this slice of cinematic pie is constructed around an atypical 4-act foundation with the movie taking its name from the one-word summarizations of the last three acts whilst Act One is pretty much left to fend for itself. Instead, we get a movie whose title of Eat Pray Love (and no for all you avid grammar fans; that is not a typo on my end, this movie’s title does not have the commas you would like. I’m sorry) is one that exudes a whimsical optimistic approach as opposed to something like Despise Eat Pray Love or something like that…..honestly this slice of cinematic pie isn’t worth trying to do that too. Instead, rather than merely inserting another verb in the title that could potentially set the wrong tone for this film before it has even gotten underway, the creative minds involved (and also the writer whose tome was the inspiration for this film) decide to conveniently omit any sort of hint as to how the first quarter of this tale is meant to go. In all fairness though, whilst also trying to say anything bad about the source material (which not only is good, but also made it on the NY Times Bestseller List….so I’m told), this cinematic adaptation might have been a tad bit more on the up and up with potential viewers had the title been something to the effect of Girl Power Eat (whilst keeping an eye on all those muffins you’re chowing down on) Pray (that this movie has less time to go before it ends than it actually does) and Love the fact that at long last the film is finally over.
The plot is as follows: Eat Pray Love tells the story of a member of that elite organization known as writers by the name of Liz Gilbert who finds her life changed forever when, whilst working on a story in the far off land of Bali, crosses paths with an elderly yet wise shaman of sorts who makes the prediction that she will return one day and in the process have a better comprehension just why Lady Fate has destined her to have one meaningless marriage that doesn’t last and one that will stand the test of time and contain all the meaning in the world. To that end, we see that this prophecy of sorts is one that really nestles its way into her brain and eventually sees her coming to believe that the man she is currently betrothed to probably is not the one she is supposed to be married to for a long and meaningful time. Thus our intrepid heroine decides to end things and in the immediate aftermath begins a destined to fail relationship with a younger man by the name of David that drives her up the wall and thus compels her to embark on a challenging, but (hopefully) ultimately productive odyssey of self-discovery across the planet. Indeed taking little more than her crushed heart and soul (plus the clothes on her back), our intrepid heroine sets out to reclaim who she’s meant to be on trips to Italy, India, and (where else) back to Bali respectively while all the while trying to find the answers she needs in order to not only restore her well-being from a pathos and spiritual perspective, but also to perhaps find the man that is destined to be the one whose love will last the longest….
Now the genuine conflicts that I have with this distinct slice of cinematic pie extend past more than just anything dealing with either the title or the nuts and bolts of the narrative. That is because when looking at this movie at face value, Eat Pray Love seems like the kind of narrative that would make for an intriguing of sorts read and perhaps a decent movie. I mean the narrative hook of a female embarking on an odyssey to find herself again that sees her going to far-off lands, meeting some really intriguing people, and maybe even finding romance and getting to live happily ever after does seem like something that could be (albeit clichéd to the hilt) successful enough if done right. Sadly it would seem that film scribe/helmer Ryan Murphy conveniently forgot the most crucial ingredient that a slice of cinematic pie in this particular vein would need in order to be as successful as it potentially could be: heart/passion. I say that because not only is this movie as one-note as the title should’ve hinted at in the first place, but it is also a film that seems to have the sole focus of inserting movie star Julia Roberts in as many exotic locations as you can in a movie that runs about 2.5 hours (including credits). Yes there is the necessary introspective quest happening at the same time as the one on the outside, but the quest of the soul (arguably the most important journey in a film like this) seems more like it was just no more and no less than a mere afterthought even in moments where our main heroine attempts to discern the meaning of life through consuming food, trying to meditate, or having meetings with her guru. Indeed this slice of cinematic pie is one that never is able to acquire (let alone even try to find) a sense of equilibrium that proves any degree of gravity to our heroine’s inner conflict and instead puts more of an emphasis on her physical vacations to several visually gorgeous locations. Suffice it to say then that for a slice of cinematic pie that manages to drag on for 2 and a half hours, all this movie manages to do is just skim the surface thus giving us a painfully stretched out vibe to the proceedings that both never ensnares the viewer or their imagination or constructs its cast of characters to where they are actually worth caring about in the process. Thus even though this narrative does attempt to have something important to say to the viewer boo on this movie for spectacularly failing to give it the means to do so.
Unfortunately when it comes to the cast for this film, none of them right down to main star Julia Roberts are able to do anything that could see a much-desired adrenaline shot be stuck in the arm of this movie and give it at least some energy to work with. I mean Roberts though doesn’t even seem like she is fully committed to this film as not only does she bring nothing in the way of effort, but her character has none of the quirky charm Roberts is known for bringing to her characters. As a result, this film feels less like a vibrant piece of cinema and more like an opportunity to just be a film that exists to try and lure in prospective viewers with the fact that they either a) read the book, b) are devoted Julia Roberts fans, or c) all of the above and believe me it shows in every single frame. I mean don’t get me wrong dear reader: Julia Roberts is still in many respects a quite talented actress, but after watching this distinct slice of cinematic pie you, as I did, will find yourself seriously missing the gorgeously quirky and charming young woman who won America’s hearts in such films as (well) Pretty Woman, Mystic Pizza, and even Notting Hill. Of course, with that being said I should also point out that I can’t put every bit of the blame on Julia Roberts for why this movie doesn’t work as well as it should. I say that because this slice of cinematic pie is saddled with a script that flings the viewer smack dab into the middle of our heroine’s story right off the bat and then proceeds to give us no reasons whatsoever for us to really care about her marriage falling apart, her dalliance with the handsome younger man, or her subsequent decision to just head out across the planet in order to find herself again. Thus, this distinct slice of cinematic pie at every given turn just gives off the vibe that being a money maker for a studio rather than a gripping and full of meaning tale was always the endgame for this particular movie. As a result, Eat Pray Love is a sloppily done movie constructed on poorly designed superficiality that does nada to better the lives of those who are able to merely spend 10 dollars to see it in theaters rather than the vast sum it would cost those same people to just drop everything to the curb and crisscross the globe on what seems to be no more and no less than a complete and utter whim.
All in all I think I can safely say that thoughts about hitting midlife and the crisis that ensues ehhhh Eat Pray Love may have been (jury’s still out on that though) a decent entry in the world of literature, but as a slice of cinematic pie it is way too long and significantly undercooked with perhaps the worst thing being that this actually could have been quite the emotional dramedy that takes a long hard look at just what really is important in life after all. Rather, this slice of cinematic pie instead proves to be a vain video travel journey with a cast of one-dimensional characters placed up against gorgeous settings that operates a solid hour more than it has any real reason to whilst leaving the vast majority of those who watch it going “this is it?” Suffice it to say then that Eat Pray Love really is a horrific case in point for how best to make a film that suffers from never using its fullest potential possible to say nothing of being guilty for thinking an entire film adaptation can succeed solely on having the right title and a big name star who might not be the best at making these kinds of films anymore. Indeed I might not be an expert of this distinct subgenre of movie magic, but I am pretty sure there are “girl locates love while abroad” movies in existence that are leaps and bounds better than this be it in regards to their narratives, helmsmanship, editing, and also just possessing more in terms of heart as well…..might I suggest one of those instead? On a scale of 1-5 I give Eat Pray Love “2010” a solid 2.5 out of 5.