A string of clichéd metaphors about realizing what life is all about — nothing new, but still entertaining, as long as you’re not on a diet.
A few minutes into the movie, when I realized it was going to be pretty good, I started to panic thinking, “Well there goes any possibility of material for my review.” It’s so much easier to write about what’s wrong with a movie than to write about what’s right — and from what I’ve seen in the press, panning “Eat Pray Love” was the easier, softer way for most movie reviewers. Sure, there were a few cracks in the foundation but it was a perfectly splendid way for a girl to spend two and a half hours on a Monday afternoon, after opening weekend.
Film critics whined that the dialogue was a string of clichéd metaphors, but that’s pretty much what self-awakenings tend to generate. Realizing what’s important in life (serenity, peace, friendship, love) is nothing new or original — after all, that’s where sayings like “don’t sweat the small stuff” come from, isn’t it?
But despite the “find your Zen” theme of the movie and the fact that most people in the audience knew what they were in for, I thought it was hilarious how the women sitting next to me were having such a problem “letting go” and “surrendering.” I mean, everyone in the theater bought tickets to see a film about finding the true meaning of life, but all they did during the previews was shuffle around clucking like chickens to make sure nobody was sitting in their reserved seats — despite it being an almost empty theater.
So, here was this movie based on a memoir about a woman’s journey into self-discovery. Ho hum — nothing revolutionary — but it was refreshing to see Julia Roberts sporting a plump physique due to what looked like liberal, pre-production consumption of carbohydrates and dairy products. Roberts was the most radiant I’d seen her in years and I left the theater feeling much better about my body, even though I had just consumed a dumpster of buttered popcorn and a Jerry Jug of Coca-Cola. She made extra body weight look sexy without having to turn herself into a salacious, voluptuous human version of Jessica Rabbit.
Here’s the gist, if you don’t already know: Liz Gilbert (Julia Roberts) finds herself at a crossroads when her husband, Stephen (Billy Crudup) says he wants to go back to school in pursuit of an MBA. This revelation causes her to spiral into tears and financial worry, ultimately putting an end to her marriage.
I don’t understand why this concept sent Liz on a passport-wielding quest for greater meaning in life. Did she ever consider he could go to night school? They don’t even have kids, they’re DINKS (double income no kids) for Pete’s sake. Lady, pull yourself together – it’s just higher education, not a heroin addiction. Liz’ emotional torment and teary exodus would have made more sense had her husband confessed he was running a high-priced call-girl ring out of the Vatican.
The unrelenting charisma of Javier Bardem (who plays Felipe, the man Liz falls for) had many moviegoers lusting and salivating. When it comes to playing the ruggedly-handsome-divorced-dad-who-had-his-heart-broken-but-is-still-willing-to-fall-in-love-again-type-of-thing, Bardem delivers in spades.
Unfortunately, I was disappointed by the esthetics of the film’s secondary characters. For example, Liz’ first husband, and then her rebound boyfriend, as well as her love interest’s son, all looked alike. They each had brown hair, brown eyes, and a pasty complexion. Darting back and forth between all the flashback scenes, it was like watching the same paper doll as cut-out clothes were fitted over the body.
There was one male character with a different look: the bongo playing beach boy with blond hair and curls, but he gets the official “thumbs down” here. Needless to say, I would have liked a little more eye candy but it was obvious that the film’s producers did not want anyone competing with Javier Bardem’s sex appeal. At one point in the film, Javier Bardem approaches Julia Roberts, finally wanting to make love to her. He looks at Roberts and all he had to say was “Darling, its time.” and she was putty in his hands.
Isn’t it amazing how you always know when a Latin man wants sex? If an American male said that exact phrase to me, my reaction would have been, “Time? Time for what? Seinfeld reruns? Renew my car insurance? Lindsay Lohan self-destruction updates?”
Felipe also tells Liz, “You don’t need a man, you need a champion.” What, like someone who eats Wheaties and wears a tracksuit? Sorry, Bruce Jenner is already chained to a bed, deep in the heart of Calabasas.
I don’t want to spill the beans on the most magical part of the movie so I’ll just give you a hint: while in India, Liz encounters a giant gray animal that has big ears, a trunk, and likes peanuts.
Despite the observations listed above, I enjoyed this film. If nothing else, “Eat Pray Love” had great cinematography. Julia’s wardrobe was cool too. Ordinarily I’m really picky when it comes to movies and I deplore clichés, but in this case, you can’t have your cake and eat it too, so stop and smell the roses.
Copyright © Barbara Bloom / 2010 Singular Communications, LLC.