Title: Eat Pray Love
Directed By: Ryan Murphy
Starring: Julia Roberts, Billy Crudup, Viola Davis, James Franco, Tuva Novotny, Luca Argentero, Richard Jenkins, Javier Bardem, Hadi Subiyanto
Like Glee? Sorry, but this film’s not for you. Despite the fact that Eat Pray Love is directed by the show’s writer-director Ryan Murphy, it’s absolutely nothing like it. It’s got some fantastic music selection, ones that would be nice to hear the William McKinley High School kids revamp, but other than that, Eat Pray Love is exactly the opposite, dreary, no fun and unmemorable. Eat, pray, love? More like eat, pray, snooze.
Julia Roberts stars as Liz, a woman whose life changes after meeting a medicine man named Ketut (Hadi Subiyanto) who predicts she’ll have two marriages, one short and one long. This forces her to recognize the fact that she may very well be in the midst of the short one and ultimately compels her to cut her husband (Billy Crudup) loose. From there she lands in the arms of a young actor (James Franco) and when that doesn’t pan out, she opts to screw it all and go on a yearlong abroad adventure during which she’ll eat, pray and love.
The stateside moments and the eating parts work, it’s the praying and loving portions that come across as pretentious and boring garbage. The success of the New York portion is in large part due to Crudup who seems to be the only one interested in having any fun with his role. Viola Davis gets a few laughs as Liz’s stoic yet caring friend Delia, but generally looks like she’d rather take a nap than have anything to do with this project. The same goes for Franco as Liz’s fling, David, whose eyelids are so heavy he looks as though he could nod off any second. Sleepy cast aside, at this point you don’t totally despise Liz, the film is rather well paced and you’re ready to get on with the show.
Roberts’ co-stars lighten up quite a bit on the first leg of Liz’s trip, Italy. This is basically the portion of the film where Liz stuffs her face and Murphy manages to pull off a cooking show-style vibe; it’s almost fun to see the next delicacy that’s laid out in front of her. Plus, she’s got a nice bunch of friends to hang out with, weakly developed, but still amiable characters. The deepest she gets with these folks is having a heart-to-heart with new pal Sofi (Tuva Novotny) when she refuses to eat a pizza because she’s gained too much weight.
Not that Eat Pray Love has been anymore than passable so far, but it completely hits a wall the moment Liz steps foot in India. Not even a mildly intriguing Richard Jenkins can save this portion from being drowned in droning hums, chanting and praying. He makes for a good adversary, rather harshly urging Liz to get out of her head, but it’s nearly impossible to appreciate in the midst of parts about some meaningless connection Liz develops with a young Indian girl and way too much meditating.
At this point your patience has completely worn thin, but you still have another country to visit, Bali. This is where Liz reunites with Ketut whose whole broken-English-guru-with-a-sense-of-humor charm becomes ridiculous and annoying. Even worse is Javier Bardem who finally arrives with roughly 30 minutes left in the film. But it’s really no loss because not only is his character completely useless, but he’s not looking as suave as usual. Regardless of his scruffy appearance, Liz falls for him and in the extremely minimal amount of time left, you’re supposed to believe that she fell hard enough to wash away all of her apprehensions and sail away with him into the sunset. Needless to say, it doesn’t work. Eat Pray Love doesn’t even end there. It goes on to purport that her whole trip was actually not so self-centered because she got all of the friends she made along the way to donate some cash so some poor woman and her kid in Bali could build a home. Needless to say, that doesn’t work either.
Reading about a woman’s tough times and her effort to recollect herself might be appealing on paper, but it doesn’t work in the least on screen. From the moment we meet Liz, there’s really nothing to like about her. We never really see what’s so terrible about her marriage, only that she’s completely breaking her husband’s heart by dropping the D-word on him out of nowhere. Then she has a fling with a much younger guy only to ditch him and leave everyone she knows behind for a yearlong trip out of the country? There’s one word for this venture and it’s not moving or inspirational, it’s selfish and that’s what kills Eat Pray Love.
Technically, the film is above average. Murphy delivers some fantastic scenic shots and ones that’ll make your stomach growl as well, the editing keeps Eat Pray Love from moving at an unbearable snail’s pace as does the soundtrack, but there’s no getting past the concept that this isn’t really a very interesting story. If you want to check out Italy, India and Bali and go on a life-changing journey, do it for yourself; don’t let Roberts do it for you. Wouldn’t you want to enjoy the experience?
By Perri Nemiroff