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August 17, 2010

"Eat Pray Love" and Julia Roberts: Almost A Winning Combination

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Photo by: Jackson Lee/starmaxinc.com 2010 Telephone/Fax: 8/10/10 Julia Roberts at the premiere of Eat Pray Love . (NYC) Photo via Newscom

Eat Pray Love, the new Julia Roberts film based on the bestselling memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert has a good heart. Unfortunately, a good heart doesn't necessarily make a good movie.

The film tells the story of writer Elizabeth Gilbert who, after leaving an unsatisfying marriage and a life that feels like it's spinning its wheels, decides to travel to Italy, India and Bali. As she tells her good friend Delia, played by Viola Davis, "I want to go someplace where I can marvel at something."

So off she goes, eating pasta, developing her Italian, and learning to meditate. As she travels, she meets new friends and tries desperately to find her own heart.

Though I haven't read the book, I heard Elizabeth Gilbert speak at Oprah's Live Your Best Life Weekend last spring and found her to be truly inspiring. The problem is, inspiration doesn't always translate well from a book to the big screen.

Journeys of self-discovery can make for dramatic storytelling, but the tricky part is that most of those journeys happen internally, and are difficult to translate to film. Narration helps, as it does in this movie -- but mostly what you end up with, as you also do in this movie, is lot of shots of pensive, insightful gazes, or in this case, scenes of meditation.

Director Ryan Murphy tries to resolve that problem with flashbacks from Elizabeth's life, but those are only moderately successful. And at a running time of 2 hours and 13 minutes, Murphy needed to use a heavier hand in the editing room.

As far as what's very good about the movie, Julia Roberts proves once again that she has grown into a skilled and likeable actress that can give even the thinnest material some depth. Javier Bardem? What a lovely hunk o' man, not to mention a good actor. He doesn't show up until way into the movie, but he perks things up substantially. Someone please put these two in another movie together because their chemistry? As they would say in Italy, "Abbondanza!"

Richard Jenkins was also marvelous as a man Elizabeth meets in India who has his own demons he's trying to escape.

I found it interesting that all the people Elizabeth met in her travels were friendly, attractive, and very welcoming. I didn't question that too much, but I couldn't help asking myself a couple of times how she paid for her yearlong journey. I'm sure it's explained in the book, but this is a movie, guys, and I'm coming in cold.

I have to admit, though, I was touched by Eat Pray Love because of issues I'm grappling with in my own life: Am I making the right choices, going in the right direction, living my life instead of just letting my life happen to me?

All questions we, especially we women, should be asking ourselves more often.

Eat Pray Love in the Blogosphere

"A Black Woman's Guide to Eat Pray Love" is a post at the Grio.com that has a slideshow of marvelous places around the world black women may feel comfortable finding peace:

How different would the experience be if the movie -- or the memoir it's based on -- had an African-American central character? Surprisingly, not so much. Sure, the locales might change: Feeling welcome is a huge criteria for black women. But the ultimate goal of finding peace, finding love and finding oneself is the same.

At I Do Declare, one blogger went out with her girlfriends to see the movie and came away with mixed feelings:

While it's not a romantic comedy or even a traditional chick flick, I enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love.. But, unlike the book, I don't know if one would "get" her story without having ever a) read all about it or b) needed the courage to walk away from a relationship.

Michelle Hulse at Babbling on the Bayou didn't like the casting of Julia Roberts or some of the variations from the book:

I think I cried through the first fifty pages or so of the book, then I laughed through the rest. The movie? It did the opposite. It tried to draw everyone in with laughter in the beginning, then forced drama with made up stories and events in the middle. Overall I enjoyed it, but it didn't blow me away.

However, Audreya at If You Ask Me had a totally different take:

Okay kids, circle this day on the calendar. With a big, red marker. Why? Because it's certainly the first -- and maybe the only -- time you'll ever hear me say this: I liked Eat Pray Love the movie better than Eat Pray Love the book.

Tootie at Tootie's Place also loved the movie:

I read the book a while ago, and I liked it. But, I have to say that I really, really liked the movie. Julia Roberts seemed to make the main character a little softer and more relatable. That’s not to mention that for 2 hours I feasted on colorful, beautiful eye candy of 3 exotic places around the world.

Stephanie Novak is a student at Northwestern, traveling in India. She uses the phrase from the movie, "I want to go someplace where I can marvel at something," as inspiration, and as the title of one of her blog posts. You can read the rest of her blog and more about her travels at 195.com.

Cross Posted from BlogHer


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