Eat Pray Love

Eat Pray Love opened today. On the surface, it looks like a woman’s film about finding’s one balance, a search for happiness, and the eternal quest for self discovery. This is of course an internal journey, but in the film they’ve added in an actual amount of real physical travel. But going to some pretty interesting as well as visually attractive destinations like Italy, India, and Bali may help a viewer enjoy the film without necessarily giving the film any more depth.

Directed by Ryan Murphy from the Elizabeth Gilbert book about her own journey to self-fulfillment, the film is sort of a search for all the new age answers in all the old if not familiar places. Emphasis on the old.

The pretty visual postcards from the edges of Rome, the eternal city, an ashram in the heart of India, and the backwoodsy or jungle-esque tranquility of Bali are certainly memorable as well as beautiful. But even though we see Liz, played with her usual elan by Julia Roberts, connect with her Italian friends, then wrangle with Richard from Texas (played by Richard Jenkins) in the ashram, then finally find herself with Javier Bardem’s Brazilian Felipe in Bali’s heart – we never quite get what’s up with her.

Liz begins in Bali researching a travel article. She will meet a Balinese ‘medicine-man’ or shaman called Ketut. He predicts she will lose all of her money, but get it back, and that she will return to see him.

Soon enough she’s back home in New York. Her marriage is in a shambles. We are given some clues but very little in the way of fact. Liz is dissatisfied with her husband Stephen played by Billy Crudup. So she separates and gives Stephen everything (as predicted by Ketut) to speed up the divorce proceedings . She then takes up with a New York actor called David. This role is played by by James Franco. It began as a physical attraction and ended  shortly although I’m not sure why. The intensity and passion that had left her marriage, was rekindled in her relationship with the actor,though we don’t actually see it in action. But once again the fires of passion will dim and Liz is left to figure it out for herself.

Liz decides a year in the three I’s – Italy, India, and Indonesia will fix her up. So with her publisher’s advance on a book in hand she leaves New York. Rome is vibrant and exciting as the Italians have made a specialty of enjoying themselves doing nothing. So Liz and Sofi, a new gal pal she meets in Rome, decide to throw caution and calories to the wind and gorge themselves on pizza and pasta – all mouth-wateringly delicious looking and beautifully shot.

With her issues mostly still unresolved, Liz then heads out to India. Alas, the guru has remained in New York tending her flock of followers there, while Liz has traveled half-way around the world to meet this guru in India. Life in the ashram is hard. Liz has a room mate who is finding herself through silence, so Liz takes up with Richard. He calls her ‘Groceries’ because of all the food she puts away. She awakens at 4:30 AM for the morning prayers and meditation. She struggles with letting go enough to find the inner calm that she is supposed to find through meditating. Ultimately we find that Richard lost his family, his job, and everything important to him because of the old demon alcohol. And then abruptly he leaves the ashram.

So Bali awaits. Upon arrival there she revisits Ketut, who at first doesn’t remember her. A near collision with Liz on a bicycle and Javier Bardem in his jeep ends with Liz in a ditch with a cut on her leg. A local lady healer not only fixes the cut with some natural herb medicines but also tells Liz that she’s in bad shape because she hasn’t had sex in a very long time. The local healer could tell because of the way Liz’s knee flexed.

That leads us to Javier Bardem’s second appearance. He can sense that Liz has some serious baggage as he has the same baggage aka divorce. Passion returns. Liz is whole…but maybe not.

In summary, some may say the film is shallow. Liz journeys from Bali to New York to Rome to India and back to Bali. The film is visually splendid, the soundtrack is wonderful with it’s mix of Indian ragas, Neil Young songs, and Brazilian love songs, but we never really know the why, the what, and the how of Liz’s inner turmoil. We see it, but we don’t really understand it even though we do get plenty of the where and the when. Some will say this isn’t sufficient. That, at 133 minutes, there’s got to be more to the story and more depth to what makes Liz tick.

Whether or not the story told gives us enough answers or just leaves us with many unanswered questions might be a problem for some viewers. For me, the travels to exotic and pretty places with the Pretty Woman is sufficient. I’ll watch this film again when the DVD is available. At the beginning of the review I said that on the surface, this appears to be a woman’s film. After watching the movie, and seeing the layers peeled back, I can now say that below the surface – it is still a woman’s movie. But as a man, I liked it. Really.

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjay5vgIwt4

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