Eat Pray Love is based on the bestselling memoirs of Elizabeth Gilbert who travelled to Rome, Mumbai and Bali on a journey of self-discovery after her divorce.
Spiritual, romantic or emotional journeys (is this one all three?) can be thrilling to watch if the right actress is playing the right role (provided, of course, that the filmmakers aren't after one of those lame, shallow "you can have it all!" empowerment tales). Julia Roberts might be a perfect fit for this since she's got the outward appearance of someone who has it all but an inner soulfulness that can tilt towards the despairing, troubled or needy. The buttery light and the presence of Javier Bardem makes me think of Vicky Cristina Barcelona and the 'woman opens up in a foreign country' makes me think of EM Forster adaptations and the though of India touching a long-locked white woman makes me think of "Thank U" by Alanis Morrissette. These are all good things to be reminded of.
On the other hand, this could be really whiny and insufferable, another entry in the dread genre Pretty Rich White People With Problems.
Since I was fifteen, I've either been with a guy or breaking up with a guy. I have not given myself two weeks of a breather just to deal with myselfSo let me get this straight. As soon as Julia is done with dreamboat Billy Crudup, handsome young James Franco pines for her while Spanish lover Javier Bardem waits just around the corner. And she has enough money to quit work for a year on this vacation to find herself? Oh boo hoo! How does she wake up in the morning!?!
We should all have those problems.
This particular subgenre of road movie also has the inherent danger of cultural insensitivity. Quite often the "exotic" people and lands of these stories exist only to aid and fulfill the lives of the Pretty Rich White People and aren't ever given dimension and a point of view of their own (The Darjeeling Limited provides a recent beautifully illustrative example of this dilemma.)
But on the other hand, don't we need these stories? Catharsis is one of the great benefits of art and travel is also a reliable eye-opener. And no matter what country you're from when you do travel to another, you are in fact viewing that "exotic" land from your own limited perspective be it Mumbai, Paris, New York, or Kansas City. And even wealthy beautiful people need to find themselves and really live.
And Julia touches an elephant!
Redemptive journey movies can be inspirational if they're not too reductive and if they don't play things too easy. So if the director (Ryan Murphy of Running With Scissors) is careful and the cast (including fine lesser-known actors like Richard Jenkins, Viola Davis and Mary Testa) is on their game, Eat Pray Love could be really good. If it is, lines like
If you could clear out all that space in your mind you'd have a doorway. And you know what the universe would do? Rush in!won't sound like new age tripe but healing words of wisdom instead.
Are you a Yes, No or Maybe So for this one?