Sunday, March 2, 2014

Film Review: Eat Pray Love

"Eat Pray Love"  ** (out of ****)

"Eat Pray Love" (2010) was based on a best selling novel written by Elizabeth Gilbert that apparently had a large female readership.

Back in 2010 on my annual top ten list I stated the films of the year were about "connecting". About people trying to fit in society, find themselves, connect to other people. "Eat Pray Love" fits in perfectly with those themes yet there is a problem I had with this movie.

Julia Roberts plays Liz Gilbert (the same name as the book's author). She and her husband, Stephen (Billy Crudup) are getting a divorce. This takes a great emotional toll on Liz, even though she is the one that wants the divorce. She says she is now unable to feel. She has no place in the world. Since she was 15, she tells a friend, she has either been in a relationship or has been breaking up with someone. She never had time to think of herself and "find her balance". So, naturally, she does what any of us would do. She takes a year long trip to Italy, India and Bali so she can "find herself".

What I dislike about "Eat Pray Love" is it is dishonest. The movie can basically be summed up as saying, rich bored white women needs to find a man. In all three countries where Liz travels that is what the locals tell her. Every women in Bali tells her "she needs to find a man". Did Liz really need to travel to these places to find a man? A message behind the movie is all we need in life (men or women) is another person to make us happy. The solution to a woman's problem is "she needs a man". This does open a larger discussion about people and society. Is this how we feel? Are we only happy when we are with someone? Does being in a relationship make us feel complete? I'm sure there would be a lot of evidence showing that is what the mass media tells us. Look no further than Valentine's Day as an example.

But a movie such as "Eat Pray Love" isn't playing fair. It wants to pretend it is about more than a woman needing to find a man. It hides behind a theme of self-empowerment. It talks about spiritual guidance. Why couldn't it just be a cute, old-fashion romantic comedy about a woman going through a divorce and she meets a man who makes her believe in love again? Why hide this story behind all these locations and phony concepts about enlightenment?

Watching a movie like "Eat Pray Love" should make the viewer come away with meaning from their life. It should change our perception about our lives and the world around us. But I can't tell you what Liz learns on this journey. I did not go along with her on this adventure.

The characters in this movie aren't real people. There are symbols of different "walks of life" that meet Liz. And, wouldn't you know it they are mostly men. There is David (James Franco) a young actor Liz hooks up with immediately after her divorce, there is Richard (Richard Jenkins) who also travels to Bali to "find himself". There is Ketut (Hadi Subiyanto) a village healer and Felipe (Javier Bardem) a good looking Brazilian who likes Liz. None of these people feel fleshed out. Who are they? There only purpose seems to be to interact with Liz.

I will grant you, the movie is pretty to look at. It was directed by Ryan Murphy, who wrote for the TV show "Glee" and "Nip/Tuck". He also wrote and directed "Running with Scissors" (2006) another disappointing movie.

Female readers might say, because I am a man I am unable to enjoy a "chick flick". I am the wrong audience. That is complete non-sense. I enjoyed "Love Actually" (2003), I enjoyed Julia Roberts previous romantic comedies; 'My Best Friend's Wedding" (1997), "Runaway Bride" (1999) and tearjerker "Stepmom" (1998) and "Mona Lisa Smile" (2003). I don't even like to think of movies as "chick flicks" or "guy movies". I only like to think of movies as "good" or "bad".

"Eat Pray Love" is a dishonest movie. It offers a strange message to women and shows the rich have too much time on their hands. They can vanish from the world for a year to look for a man.