Eat Pray Love – a movie about new beginnings, a hunger for life, year-long adventures in spirituality and self-discovery through travel. With all the markings of a self-help group merging with Oprah’s book club, this movie starring Julia Roberts is predictably little more than two hours of Hollywood tedium.
I have nothing against the old chick-flick format per se. After all, the genre has brought us gems such as Steel Magnolias and Terms of Endearment. But these movies explore characters in depth and manage to make us burst into laughter while crying because we see ourselves in the characters and relate to true-to-life situations.
Going in, I really wanted to relate. After all, I too am a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown and I too have secretly been planning a freedom tour around the world for about 20 years. In fact, as I near 40, I find myself counting the days before it’s too late, often catch myself calculating how much I’d really need and whether I’d go east to west or the other way around. I question what would be here when (and if) I returned a completely changed woman having satisfied her one true ambition. I should have been the perfect mark for this movie, but I felt NOTHING.
Eat Pray Love is not really a movie about discovery. It’s more about letting the unimaginative book club girl live vicariously through Julia Roberts in a way she understands. It speaks her language and allows her to keep her ignorant perceptions about world travel. Because no dreamer who has never been anywhere wants to hear that Julia would have needed a grand a day for most of this trip, or that it would be pathetic to have travelled so far and seen little more than a pasta joint and a beach bar. More importantly, our dreamer doesn’t want to be reminded that not even a woman sick of her life and running away from it would ever consider renting a Balinese house free of windows, walls or a front door in the middle of a rice paddy. Don’t get me wrong – the house was a romantic luxury vacation dream come true but you couldn’t pay me to stay there, alone, in the middle of nowhere, in the dark, in Bali.
Plausibility and budgeting aside, Eat Pray Love fails most when it denies the audience of the colourful imagery that should come automatically with a story about hunger, discovery and travel. In other words, it forgets to expose the viewer to the dream itself. It keeps talking about it but we never get there. There are a few notable scenes of cycling through the Asian countryside and sharing a table in a busy pizza parlour in Naples, but we can’t smell or taste anything. The hunger is neither contagious nor titillating. There are no walks through eclectic markets, historic monuments, quaint villages or arguments with local cabbies. Nothing sparks a curiosity so strong that all you want to do is rush home to book a flight somewhere – anywhere. You’re left kind of deflated that this is all this woman did in the year that followed the revelation that she needed to eat, pray and love life by the horns.
Let this be a lesson against showing up late for Inception.