Friday, August 13, 2010

Higgens Network: Eat Pray Love

There was a point during Eat Pray Love when I worried my cynicism was actually affecting what I was seeing on screen. After squinting, I realized I actually was seeing an angelic light on Julia Roberts’ head for most of the movie. (Sadly not kidding.) She plays Elizabeth Gilbert, a professional writer who famously devoted a year to living in Italy, India, and Bali.

Why she does this is never clear in the film. The first scene she’s in Bali, being paid to cover an article. She meets an adorable old medicine man who says she will someday return to Bali. Then she’s back in New York with her husband Stephen (Billy Crudup) and her friends at a party. Liz talks about all of the places that she wants to visit before she dies and then mentions she has to go to Aruba to write another article. Remarkably, I’m not pitting her life.

But I was wrong about that opinion! For out of nowhere Liz is in her bathroom crying to God about her existence and her horrible life. I felt like 20 minutes were randomly cut out where we were supposed to at least hint at a failing marriage. So she abruptly divorces Stephen, who I’m still convinced is a good guy. She starts dating a guy who is acting in a play of hers (James Franco) but then decides what she really needs to do is travel for a year. The movie suspiciously leaves out the part where she was paid by her publisher to live in these places.

Before she even starts going around the world, I was starting to feel nauseous. The camera would never stop moving. It kept unnecessarily spinning around and around the characters and up and down and up and down and sideways. Everything was over-edited and just a nuisance. This style starts to simmer during the film, which means they’re trying to imply that her life was in chaos? Boy, I hope that isn’t what they were trying to do.

Writer/director Ryan Murphy and his co-writer Jennifer Salt never give us a proper idea of who Liz Gilbert is. The entire movie features various characters bluntly telling her how to live her life, but I still don’t know how to describe Liz. Roberts brings a lot of likability to her, but she’s still a very two-dimensional character, which makes it impossible to enjoy her journey.

Now if she’s two-dimensional that means everyone else in the movie only has one dimension. Everyone in this movie is just supposed to adore Liz for all that she’s “doing.” You go girl for eating pasta in Rome? The film over romanticizes every single bite during some of these meals, I can’t decide if it’s trying to appeal to the senses or mocking the character. I hate to say it, but that applies to the spiritual side as well.

This never feels like a real movie, but just a series of vignettes. They are not long, but only lasting about a minute or two apiece. Now stretch that over two hours. Some of them may be entertaining, but none of it gels as an actual movie. Just like anecdotes on a day-by-day calendar isn’t a real book. Without any sort of emotional connection to this story or even a basic sense of storytelling, this is just a boring look at beautiful places.

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