Elizabeth Gilbert was miserable. She crashed out of her marriage, careened into another relationship way too quickly and was just overwhelmed and seriously fucked up. She needed a change — not just a haircut or new clothes — a fundamental change to everything she knew.
Not many people have the guts and the money to make such a fundamental change. Smart girl that Gilbert is she sold a book proposal which allowed her to travel the world for a year to get her shit together. Out of that journey came the best selling book Eat Pray Love. If I was her publisher I would think that her advance was the best investment EVER.
Detractors of the book and now the movie starring Julie Roberts as Liz Gilbert which opens today, complain that she comes off as self-centered and privileged. What right does she have to go away for a year and on someone else’s dime no less.
I for one say power to her.
The film takes us on Liz’ journey through the food of Italy, the prayers of India and the gorgeous blue skies of Indonesia. The Bali scenes made my mouth water even more than the pasta of Italy especially when Javier Bardem entered the film as her lover (and now husband.)
The problem for me with the film is that it feels too superficial. Ryan Murphy who directed and co-wrote the script (with Jennifer Salt, daughter of blacklisted writer Waldo Salt) is known now for his huge TV hit Glee. What Glee accomplishes so well (and what is lacking here) is the layers to each character and its heart. Heart is very difficult to describe and harder to accomplish. It’s like lightning in a bottle. Glee has it. You feel for them. You are on their side. You want them to succeed.
Here in Eat Pray Love you don’t feel that heart. I don’t know if it’s Julia (who I liked) or Murphy but you never really care about what happens to Liz. That’s a big problem.
I know (and write about) the lack of films that tell stories about women, our lives, our concerns and our fears. It’s not that I disliked the film, I had a fine time, it just didn’t move me the way I expected or hoped. On the other hand, this movie is leagues above Sex and the City 2 so those who were put off by that film and the reviews should feel comfortable plunking their $10 or $12 bucks down for this.
I come back again to the point I made earlier this summer when I wrote about Sex and the City 2 about how gay men have been anointed by Hollywood as the purveyors of women’s stories. I renew my concern about this trend especially since Julia Roberts and Ryan Murphy are making another movie together cause they had a great time making Eat Pray Love. Good for them.
Personally, I want female stars with clout to use it get women some gigs working for the studios when appropriate. Eat Pray Love should have — and could have– been one of those occasions. Maybe then my reaction to the film would have been something other than – so what.
That being said I hope and pray that the movie makes tons of money this weekend. We’ll see on Monday if Julia has more juice than Sylvester Stallone in The Expendables which looks to be a reunion of everyone Stallone fought in the Rocky films with a little Bruce Willis thrown in, and the comic book geek fest, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.