EAT PRAY LOVE could have had a whole ‘nother title. It would have fared well with being called TRAVEL MEN JULIA, but just not in that order. The cinematic adaptation of the uber hit Eat Pray Love – at times – doesn’t really come off as the Elizabeth Gilbert story, rather it seems to be all about Julia Roberts. Yes, Julia is playing Elizabeth, but being cursed with such a superstardom, it can be hard to divorce Julia Roberts the celebrity from Julia Roberts the actress. Myself, I kept on thinking, ‘oh there’s Julia in Italy, oh there’s Julia in India, oh there’s Julia in Bali.’ But maybe I had that reaction because there is just so much Julia in the film. She is in almost every scene and the camera, it loves her. There are long shots of her eating, praying and well, loving…
“Having a baby is like having a tattoo on your face,” Elizabeth’s friend tells her. “You have to be committed.” And commitment is something Julia’s character is lacking, but mostly because she is on a spiritual quest. “I need to change,” she says. “I have no pulse.” She leaves her husband (Billy Crudup) and shacks up with the very hot and charismatic James Franco, who turns her onto meditation but the pairing doesn’t last. After two back to back failed relationships, Elizabeth opts to find herself. Just not there. She decides to take a year and go to Italy (for the food), India (for the spirituality) and Bali (for a bit of Paradise).
The locales, they are stunning. The vistas of the Italian countryside and the old world charm of Rome, the colorful and chaotic nature of India, and the utter beauty and tropical topography of Bali will activate the travel lust in a large percentage of the audience. Each place is unique, unusual and a place where anyone, not just Elizabeth, would find some kind of nourishment for their eyes, tummies, or spirit.
In each place Elizabeth forms bonds with locals and expats. And these people that touch her life include a wide range of characters, from the Balinese healer to the Italian language tutor to the Indian girl to be married off in an arranged marriage. But one of the most interesting people she meets, at least by the standards of his performance in the film, is Richard Jenkins. Richard Jenkins who is destined to get an Academy Award nomination for his touching and nuanced performance of Richard from Texas.
With a focus on Elisabeth and her journey leading to Mr. Right, some of her quest for spirituality and balance is lost in translation from the page to the book. It’s a Hollywood film so it became more boy meets girl than girl meets enlightenment. And as a travel film, it truly is stunning. But I personally would have liked more of the countries cultural music used to add more texture to the experience. It was heavy on the Neil Young but light on the opera, sitar and gamelan. But the leaning on contemporary American hits is probably due to the film being directed by Ryan Murphy of Glee fame.
As for date night worthiness. This is primarily a “chick flick.” Not that many men have much of an interest in seeing a two hour journey of a woman’s spiritual quest. But with the injection of testosterone in the form of James Franco, Richard Jenkins and Javier Bardem (playing her Brazilian love interest) gives the boys in the audience an ally. But really, who doesn’t mind looking at Julia Roberts for two-hours, be they male or female.
How long do you need the sitter?
The films running time is about two hours
For Dinner Before Hand:
Pasta or Pizza, a spicy curry or maybe some Nasi Goreng if you can find it.
What if I wanted to bring the kids?
The film is PG-13 and has some swearing and sexual references. It might be okay for older kids but they probably wouldn’t get much of what is going on.
Photos: Sony Pictures