Friday, August 13, 2010

Woman in Search of a Word

You might think that after seeing a movie called Eat Pray Love, that I'd want to do one of the above. Or, that maybe I'd want to hop online and plan a trip to Italy, India, or Bali. But that would imply that said movie was any good, and portrayed the activities of the title and showed the places where they're undertaken in attractive, tourist-friendly ways. Unfortunately, EPL is not the kind of movie that would inspire such a reaction.

In EPL, which is based on the best-selling memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert, Julia Roberts stars as a heartbroken woman who learns to love herself by, yes, eating her way through Italy, praying in India, and finding romance in Bali. Or at least that's what the end result is supposed to be. Truthfully, I didn't find the character to be very different at the end than she was at the beginning, and that's largely because the film never really allows Liz to be alone and find herself. Everywhere she travels, she almost instantly finds another American, or someone with excellent English-speaking skills, who she can hang out with. Also, we're meant to feel sorry for Liz, but really, there's not much for us to be sorry about. And that makes her journey less than compelling. When, at the film's conclusion, she supposedly realizes how much she's learned, and she ends up with Javier Bardem (sorry, spoiler alert), I just didn't believe that she was a different person who wouldn't fall back into the same pattern again.

Which is not to say that EPL is a bad or less than entertaining film. Indeed, it's hard not to enjoy a film where Julia Roberts looks like she's enjoying herself. And despite the premise of EPL, I wouldn't exactly call it a girly movie (kudos to director and co-writer Ryan Murphy for that). More importantly, the film boasts a good performance by the always reliable Richard Jenkins, as a man Liz meets in India. But I went to this movie expecting to walk out hungry, like I did after Julie & Julia, and was sorry there was not more eating or food on screen. I expected to have my heart filled with hope and joy at the end. And I expected more from the story — and from Murphy, creator of Glee. I really wanted to enjoy EPL more, but when this too-long movie was over, I felt let down. So I'm only going to give EPL a B–.

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