No, I haven’t read the bestselling novel “Eat, Pray, Love: A Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia” so I can’t compare it to the book. Arguably, as films can never be as engrossing as a book (I stand by this), I should have enjoyed the film more. However before I even stick the DVD on, I am already annoyed by the lack of commas in the film title. Why, Ryan Murphy, why?
This film follows the year long journey of a 32 year old writer, Elizabeth Gilbert (played by America’s ageing sweetheart, Julia Roberts), following a difficult divorce. Billy Crudup plays Elizabeth’s heartbroken husband who really isn’t given enough screen time for anyone to understand why the marriage isn’t working. More time in fact is given to James Franco, who plays the boyfriend she takes up with whilst her divorce is going through, and for the life of me I can’t understand why (in terms of storytelling only of course, there never needs to be a real reason for me to watch James Franco).
All that is clear from this introduction is that Elizabeth is in a slump, possibly depressed, and is using divorce to try and escape the reality of how her life has turned out. A good premise for sympathy, especially from people like me who are always dreaming of what life could have been and all the places in the world I’ve still yet to see, but this lack of explaining any of Elizabeth’s background just makes her come across like a selfish, spoilt child who doesn’t want to grow up. Not the best start when you get the feeling that you are meant to be on board with this supposedly poor lost soul.
Post-divorce, Elizabeth plots out a 12 month trip to Italy (the eat portion), India (the pray portion) and Indonesia (the love portion). Italy start promisingly – Rome looks beautiful, the lovely language is heard a-aplenty and the screen is forever lit up with mouth-watering italian culinary delights. Having said that, I’m not sure if Elizabeth picks up anything of any value to her soul-searching expedition than a few extra pounds in weight. Surely that’s something she could have done with her husband to try and rekindle the flame?
We move onto India and here the film really starts to let itself down. India, even with its full poverty on show, is often an exotic whirlwind of colours and movement, and you can’t help but be intoxicated by it on film; such as in Slumdog Millionare. Here however, it looks drab. It looks dull. India looks downright boring. I’ve been there, trust me, it ain’t. Elizabeth’s journey to discovering the merits of meditation in an ashram seem superficial and her friendship with Richard Jenkins’ Richard seems included only to try and bring some sort of emotional connection with the audience through his own tragic tale. Needless to say, it doesn’t work.
Indonesia fairs better in the looks department although it disappoints me to see Javier Bardem in such a lifeless role as her love interest, Felipe. He too is divorced and looking for love, although he’s been on the market for a much longer time and as such, has a different set of intimacy issues. In this final leg of her journey, Elizabeth makes friends with a local Indonesian divorcée shunned from her community, an old medicine man and a few party-minded expats who she helps along the way whilst deciding what her own future will be. I could sit here and write a bit more about what happens in this last half hour but to be honest by this point, both in the film and in this review, I really don’t care.