Eat Pray Love (2010)
Well, I heard the book was good.
Eat Pray Love is about a woman who goes through an ugly divorce, quickly rebounds into a relationship with a younger guy, quickly realizes that she’s a mess and shacking up with a struggling actor isn’t helping, so she quickly jumps to the conclusion that she’s gonna take a year off. And so begins her quest to rediscover the woman she once was by eating ’til her pants burst in Italy, praying herself silly at an ashram in India and allowing herself to love again with a saucy Brazilian stud she meets over in Bali.
I might be the last person on Earth who can claim this, but I’ve never read the book this is based off of. I know, I need to get my head out of the sand and get in touch with my inner-woman stat, but all the same, I feel like something must have gotten lost in translation.
Now, I’ve never met Liz Gilbert, I don’t know a damn thing about her outside of what a good writer she apparently is, but judging by the insano popularity that her memoir has garnered over the past, what, 300 years now, I’m thinking she’s probably a likable gal, someone you’d probably enjoy hanging out with during a year-long international journey of self-discovery. Then again, no one’s perfect, but the problem here is that as much as we all love Julia Roberts, she didn’t really manage to get that “I totally get you, Liz” vibe across to me.
Strangely enough, she’s actually kind of blah. Actually, everyone here is kind of blah.
Thanks to Freaks and Geeks and his turn as Saul Silver – the true 21st Century stoner – I usually of the mindset that James Franco is pretty sweet, but he’s nothing short of meh as Liz’s new boyfriend, David. Never been a big fan of Billy Crudup, but he’s awfully meh as well as Liz’s first husband, Stephen, and the total douche move he pulls during their first wedding dance isn’t helping him any either. And as much as I love Javier Bardem, I couldn’t help but wonder what a badass was doing in this movie as Liz’s Brazilian hunk, Felipe. He’s fine, it just doesn’t seem to be the kind of role befitting of his suave-ass self. And too bad that Viola Davis hardly gets any screen time, ’cause she’s legit. But in the cast’s defense, the script makes them sound like they’re all reading off cue cards instead of trying to convey actual human emotion, so I’ll let ‘em off the hook this once.
But then there’s my man Richard Jenkins.
Folks, remember that name, you’ll be glad you did. He plays Richard (awfully convenient), the only other white American at the Indian ashram who eventually serves as Liz’s catalyst in helping her get past her divorce, and in keeping with his most incredible performance in The Visitor, he is very much the man. Whereas everyone else in this movie feels like actors reading their lines, Jenkins is a saving grace as the one genuine, authentic human being of the bunch and the five minutes he’s given to really let loose are the best five minutes of the whole effing movie by a long shot. Man, I could gush about this guy like crazy because he deserves to be a household name at this point, but I’ll save you the trouble and let you see for yourself when he inevitably gets an Oscar nod for this.
Richard Jenkins. So awesome.
So this movie’s got its fair share of issues, but there is still something totally wonderful about it. It’s more a testament to Liz Gilbert and her book than anything else, but since there can’t be a single person on this Earth who hasn’t wanted to drop everything, smash open that piggy bank, get the hell out of dodge and just take a year for yourself in the one, two or three places on your bucket list that you’ve always wanted to visit, it’s very cool to come across someone who actually took that leap. It’s damn inspiring, it makes me want to fast track it over to Bali like you wouldn’t believe, and it’s great to see someone who didn’t just wait for the right time to present itself like we all do.
For all of Ryan Murphy’s bizarre direction that’s chock full of unnecessary zooms like he just discovered where the button on the camera was and the way he rushes the plot along in total “Let’s get this over with” fashion, I wouldn’t be surprised if Italy’s, India’s and Bali’s tourism departments were sending him blank checks this past weekend. Absolutely gorgeous scenery (well, maybe not so much India), and while it’s not quite a cultural love letter on the lines of The Motorcycle Diaries or Lost in Translation, it’s hard not to be pretty envious of all the folks that were involve with making this movie/paid vacation.
On the one hand, Eat Pray Love probably wasn’t my thing to begin with, but, as always, I kept an open mind and gave it more than a fair shot. It might be more interesting if you’ve read the book, but since the only reason I want to read the book now is because it has to be better than this, don’t quote me on that. Julia’s done far better, she’s more just playing the part here than anything else, but at least we’ve got Jenkins. Could have been worse, but considering how huge the source material’s become, I’m thinking it should have been much better.