Thursday, August 12, 2010

Jula Roberts eats, prays and learns to love

It's hardly news that Julia Roberts can carry a movie. So you won't be shocked that she puts Eat, Pray, Love on her back, pretty much keeping this episodic adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert's best-selling memoir from falling apart. Appealing as she is, Roberts can't elevate this travelogue into something meaningful and deep. I don't blame her, but director Ryan Murphy of Nip/Tuck fame seems to have forgotten that a long-standing internal conflict about life's meaning only can carry a movie so far. As was the case with Gilbert's book, the movie follows Gilbert as she leaves two failed relationships and tries to find herself during a yearlong trip that begins in Italy, continues in India and culminates in Bali. On her various stops, Gilbert learns life lessons, and eventually arrives at a point at which she can take a chance on love. The men in Gilbert's life are played by Billy Crudup (first husband); James Franco (Gilbert's next love); and Javier Bardem (the man who just might be able to persuade Gilbert to risk her heart.) Richard Jenkins portrays a Texan Gilbert meets in an Indian ashram; Jenkins is good, but the movie doesn't really allow any of these characters to flourish. They're like people we meet on a trip, feel a little close to and then forget. Roberts and supporting players do their best to give the movie some easy charm. I enjoyed looking at Rome, and reveled the airy openness of Gilbert's home in Bali, but Eat, Pray, Love offers a cliched view of the world and of its colorful characters, a smiling, toothless medicine man included. I couldn't watch Eat, Pray, Love without thinking how much more I wanted from these characters and from the movie itself. Director Murphy, one of the screenplay's co-writers, attempts to replicate the author's voice by having Roberts supply a narration. But if there's any authentic yearning in the movie, I didn't feel it. I also couldn't help thinking that if Arthur Frommer wrote self-help books instead of travel guides, this is how they'd look.

1 comment:

Cilicious said...

Full disclosure:
I never read the book.
But one thing I believe is that travel is supposed to enhance your life, but not uphold it.
As much as I love Rome, Roberts and her leading men, I think I'll wait for the rentals.