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eat-pray-love-1 Movie:Eat Pray Love
In Theaters: August 13, 2010
Director: Ryan Murphy
Runtime: 133 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 on appeal for brief strong language, some sexual references and male rear nudity
Gecko Rating: 3 Gecko

It took me a long while to get through Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir, ‘Eat Pray Love,’ in which she decides to divorce her husband Stephen (played by Billy Crudup in the film) and embark on a one-year journey of self-discovery through Italy (eat), India (pray) and Indonesia (love). All of the introspection and navel-gazing sort of made me want to hurl, although I appreciate that she was able to lay it all out there for readers. It couldn’t have been easy for her. Here she is struggling through her own emotional turmoil, and then to let the whole world in to experience it with her is pretty remarkable.

It’s a journey that I’m sure many women would love to take, having the freedom to travel and explore their options, breaking free from any restraints that tied them to their former life. Then again, not many women are willing or able to do that. Most women have jobs, families, children and mortgages that need their attention, and to leave those behind would not only be unfeasible, it would also be extremely selfish.

So ‘Eat Pray Love’ allows us to live vicariously through one woman’s journey of self-discovery, and at the very least, prompts us to examine what we can change in our own lives to bring more fulfillment to both us and those around us. I just hope it doesn’t prompt women to up and leave their lives, children and families behind in search of fulfillment. I’m mainly thinking about the children involved in these scenarios.

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It’s challenging to condense a 352-page memoir into a 133-minute movie. Some things are glossed over, some things aren’t covered at all, and you come out of the theater thinking maybe you should have just stuck with the book and not watched the movie. In spite of that, it’s a movie worth watching for several reasons.

First and foremost is the gorgeous scenery. It was filmed in Italy, India and Indonesia, and the locations are absolutely stunning, including those luscious plates of spaghetti and gourmet pizzas that Julia Roberts, as Elizabeth Gilbert, practically makes love to right in the restaurants. In Italy, she also meets some great friends, including Luca Spaghetti (Giuseppe Gandini), Giovanni (Luca Argentero), and Sophi from Sweden (Tuva Novotny).

In India, she meets perhaps the most interesting character in the film, Richard from Texas (Richard Jenkins), who affectionately calls her “Groceries” because of all the food she’s able to consume in one sitting. Richard, the iconic “gruff guy with a heart of gold,” is working through his own issues at the sacred ashram where Gilbert lands to meditate, let go of the past, and move on with the future.

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In Bali, Indonesia, she re-connects with Ketut Liyer (Hadi Subiyanto), an aging medicine man with whom she studies (she’d met him previously while working on an article about the area), befriends single mom Wayan (Christine Hakim) and asks her friends to help fund a home for the woman, and finds love with the dashing and emotionally open Brazilian Felipe (Javier Bardem, with whom Roberts has good chemistry). By the way, the difference between Bardem’s sweet Felipe in this film and his cold-hearted killer Chigurh in ‘No Country for Old Men’ is just astounding. The guy’s a brilliant actor.

‘Eat Pray Love’ might not live up to everyone’s expectations, but I still think it’s worth checking out if you’re a fan of any of the actors, if you want to see how the film stacks up against the book, or if you simply love romantic dramas filmed in exotic locales.

My 13-year-old daughter saw it with me, and while most of it was ok for her in terms of adult content – although we really didn’t need to see one guy’s butt as he implores Gilbert to go skinny-dipping with him – she basically just got bored about half-way through and started playing Word Mole on my phone. I think it’s ok for kids aged 14 and older, especially if they like romantic dramas that examine love, spirituality and culture in other parts of the world.

NOTES FOR PARENTS:

Sex/Nudity: Couples flirt and kiss; a few scenes show couples in bed together (mainly talking). A woman discusses her need to end her self-prescribed celibacy. At a party, a man takes a woman outside and strips down to go skinny-dipping, inviting her to do the same (his bare backside is shown). A couple goes behind closed doors, presumably to have sex.

Violence/Gore. None.

Profanity: Includes ‘screw,’ ‘ass,’ ‘godd*mn,’ ‘hell,’ ‘d*mn,’ ‘bullsh*t,’ and ‘sh*t.’ One use of motherf***er.’

Drugs/Alcohol: Social drinking at parties, restaurants, and dinners. A woman gets drunk at a party and has to deal with a major hangover the next day. A few references in casual conversation to Xanax and meth.

Which Kids Will Like It? Kids 14 and older who like Julia Roberts films and/or romantic dramas with lots of introspection.

Will Parents Like It? Viewers familiar with the book might feel unfulfilled after watching the movie, but it does have some high points, including the gorgeous scenery and chemistry between Roberts and Bardem.

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Images: Sony Pictures

1 COMMENT

  1. Thanks for the review–looks like I’ll skip this one–a little too much navel-gazing for my taste. I read somewhere that Gilbert had her trip funded by her publisher? Do you know if that’s true? It seems curious to go on your ‘journey of self-discovery’ as paid for by your publisher, but then I guess stranger things happen.

  2. I could not get through the book. Almost reached the end of EAT and then threw up. No, actually, you hit on exactly why I stopped reading. I could not stand the egotism and navel-gazing. It all struck me as highly unlikely for most American women, and I say this as an American woman who moved aboard at 21 and married a Frenchman.

    I had no intention of seeing the movie, but you have given me a reason to rent it on Netflix: more great acting by Javier Bardem. Thanks!

  3. Kristen and Sandy – Yes, lots and lots of navel-gazing. Part-way into Eat (reading — or rather, listening to the audiobook), I was just so frustrated and wanted her to “just get on with things.” Of course, everyone has their own way of getting on with things, and hers was to get all self-absorbed and examine everything in detailed minutae. I do that sometimes, but then get sick of MYSELF for doing that. I can’t even deal with my own minutae; why would I want to deal with someone else’s? I’m more like Katharine Hepburn that way. Her M.O. was to just “get on with it.”

    Alisa – The film really doesn’t do the book justice. Although on the other hand, if you just can’t get through the book because of all the navel-gazing, maybe the movie is the way to go. I’d be curious as to whether people who’ve never read the book like the movie. Anyone out there?

  4. I’ve not read the book, so perhaps I’ll have to go see the movie and report back. Thanks for the balanced review, Jane.

    Also, I’d be interested to know a bit more about where the movie was filmed in each of these countries. I’ll go check out your other posts about it but, if you’ve not yet covered that…

  5. I keep going back and forth about seeing this. The reviews have been so mixed. But that’s a good thing, since now I have more realistic expectations of the movie. Movies are so rarely as good or better than the books they represent, too, which is why I’m usually disappointed after seeing the movie. But after reading your review, I do think I’ll go and have a look-see, knowing now what to expect.

  6. I think of this movie like Under the Tuscan Sun. How did they screw it up so badly? What I object to the most is that the witty Gilbert was totally LOST in the simpering Roberts (and I love Julia Roberts) and the charm of the book — what there was of it anyway — was lost in the movie. My butt hurt watching it. And I was so mad that I wasted my money. I have seen all of 3 movies in 9 months (I had a baby 9 months ago) and it’s hard to leave a small baby at home and then not enjoy yourself. I would urge your readers NOT to bother with this film.

    But they should go see THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, which was excellent!

  7. I bet the visuals are gorgeous! Looking forward to seeing it this weekend.

    Jane, did you ever review Inception? Did I miss that one?

  8. I made it the whole way through the book—like most of you, I found it heavy on the self-indulgence but if it’s causing women to re-examine their life priorities, seek a more balanced existence, and generally find emotional resonance, then I can’t hate on it entirely. I’d rather reserve my ire for The Devil Wears Prada (the book), but that’s another post! 🙂

    All this to say that you’ve convinced me to Iwait until EPL is free on my HBO/Starz channels so I can half-watch it while fooling around on the computer.

  9. Kerry – When Julia Roberts signed on for the film, she stipulated that it be shot in the locations where the story actually took place. So the filming locations included Bali, Indonesia; Delhi, India; Naples, Campania, Italy; Pataudi Palace, Pataudi, Haryana, India; and Rome, Lazio, Italy. More from the L.A. Times here: http://bit.ly/dzjeO0

    And here’s an AP story that talks about how the film is spurring travel in these countries: http://yhoo.it/aJzrcm

    Susan – I’ll write up something on Inception today! I thought it was good, but maybe not quite up to all the buzz it received before the movie was released.

    Jennifer – I loved The Kids Are All Right, too. Saw it at the Traverse City Film Festival, and will post a review.

    Casey – Did you like the film adaptation of The Devil Wears Prada? My daughter and I love that movie.

    Thanks for all the great comments, everyone!

  10. I’m rather of the “navel gazing” type myself, and I loved the book, though I almost got drummed out of my book group for proposing that we read it together. I saw the movie yesterday and quite liked it, though it’s by no means perfect. Roberts did a credible job (though I agree with Jennifer that it doesn’t have the sparkle of Gilbert’s writing) and I believe it will strike a cord with many women (and some men–there were TWO men in the pretty full theater where I saw it). It’s too bad that we have to pooh-pooh the notion of introspection and poke fun at people who really want to examine their lives and live them fully, but even in this eye-candy wrapper I think the point gets across and many will take it up and benefit from it.

    For the record, Gilbert’s being paid by her editor takes nothing away from the story for me. She’s a paid journalist–so am I, and if I thought I could get an editor to pay for the various pilgrimages I’ve longed to take, I’d be on the next plane.

    That said, I think they kind of soft-pedaled the India/God part of Gilbert’s journey. The Italy part, though? If you don’t come out of the theater ravenous, then you need to check your pulse to make sure you aren’t actually dead. And, on a purely carnal note–Javier Bardem can sail into my port any time. Just saying . . .

  11. Susan – Ask and ye shall receive! Inception review here:

    http://www.filmgecko.net/2010/08/18/review-inception/

    Nancy – It really is too bad that we pooh-pooh the notion of introspection. I always feel bad when I do, because when something major happens in my own life, I might want to sit down and analyze the heck out of it. And it might be necessary in order for me to move beyond it, and maybe I’ll help someone else out in the process.

    So I think introspection works, especially if a person is examining their own life or examining someone else’s life in order to help them examine their own life. Wow, that’s a twisty sentence, but I hope my meaning comes across.

    Sometimes I’m just “Oh just get on with things” and sometimes I’m “Wait, let’s stop and take a closer look at this, and maybe I can learn something here.”

  12. the best thing that has come out of seeing (and writing about that movie) is all the thoughtful comments it has stirred up among my women friends.

    i appreciated reading your take, jane, before i headed to the cinema. so i had my expectations in check.

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