Given some of the places Judge Patrick Naugle loves to dine at, he needs to pray before he eats.
"Wherever you are, there you go."—Mike Brady
Liz Gilbert's Eat Pray Love became an international bestseller and spent over 150 weeks on the charts. The book's theme—finding oneself amidst life's chaos—seems to have resonated with readers all over the globe. Like any blockbuster, Hollywood came calling and decided to turn Gilbert's much-loved non-fiction story into a sweeping romantic epic helmed by Glee creator Ryan Murphy (whose only previous film was the underrated Running with Scissors). Eat Pray Love is now available on DVD care of Sony Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
Writer Liz Gilbert (Julia Roberts, Erin Brokovich) has tired of her domestic life. Shackled to Stephen (Billy Cudrup, Big Fish)—a husband she no longer wants—and desiring to find an inner fire long lost, Liz starts anew on a different continent and with a purpose: balance. Liz's journey will take her through a scrumptious tour of Italy, a spiritual excursion into the heart of India, and finally a stop in Bali where she learns to open her heart to a local divorcee, Felipe (Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men), and discover the true meaning of unconditional love.
Everyone desires to find a meaning for their lives. As a people, we are so entrenched with the mundane day-to-day that it can be a challenge just to find enough time to show love to those closest to us, much less ourselves. Eat Pray Love looks at one woman's travels as she searches for enlightenment in a foreign land. Never mind the fact that Ms. Gilbert's experience was paid for by an advance on a her soon-to-be published bestseller (most viewers won't have that particular luxury), the point of the film and the book is to show that sometimes you have to lose your way to find your purpose. While the film won't show you the meaning of life, it does offer an amusing, sometimes moving, slightly standard romantic comedy.
I have spoke with those who've read the book and noted that the adaptation feels more like vignettes strung together rather than a cohesive story. Such is the life of the book-turned-movie—much on the page is often left on the cinematic cutting room floor. I have a feeling that Liz's journey on the page is far more fleshed out than what we're offered here. Characters come and go rather quickly and at times I had to ask my girlfriend who was who and where they came from, which is a sign that some of the periphery characters have been painted with a rather broad brush.
I liked Eat Pray Love. I didn't have an overly enthusiastic response to the film, but I found it to be genial, good natured, and slightly deeper than most romantic comedies I've seen (Life As We Know It, I'm look right at you). I cared about Liz and her quest, even when I wasn't enthralled with what was happening onscreen. The best moments come in smaller, quiet doses. Although many women will be drawn to the film for the relationship between Liz and Felipe, the most intriguing relationship is between Liz and Richard (Richard Jenkins, The Visitor), a Texan trying to find his own inner peace. Richard starts as an irritating stock character (calling Liz "Groceries" throughout his time onscreen), but quickly becomes a warming presence thanks to Jenkins amusing, moving portrayal. Their rooftop exchange is one of the truly sparkling moments in the film.
Other side characters don't shine as brightly. James Franco (Spider-Man trilogy) has a nearly walk-on cameo as Liz's post-divorce fling. Franco has turned out to be a dependable actor, but is given little to work with in Murphy's script. Billy Cudrup tends to be floating in Franco's same boat, though at least Stephen is never painted as the villain (something easily achievable in most standard rom-com divorce flicks). Javier Bardem (a man every women I've ever talked to seems to adore) is pleasing and gentle as Felipe, and the character is given more emotional depth than I expected (he has a strong, emotionally powerful relationship with his teenage son).
Eat Pray Love obviously plays heavily the female crowd, but Liz's journey is a universal one that many moviegoers—both male and female—will relate to. Although the film often bogs down in standard romantic comedy clichés (the end scene has been played in a different variation so many times it's worn a rut in the floor), I can easily recommend this movie for those who enjoy beautiful scenery, great food, and a little bit of spiritual wisdom.
Eat Pray Love is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and the picture quality is very good. The sights and colors of the film's locations are well represented and sumptuous—Bali's locations especially pop (the ocean sports deep blue and green palates). Overall, a good looking image that should please fans of the film.
The sound mix is presented in Dolby 5.1 Surround in English and French (with English, French and Spanish subtitles). I was a bit surprised at the amount of surround sounds used in this film; the mix offering up some nice directional moments during scenes that feature crowded marketplaces and restaurants. The ethnically tinged music is also thoroughly dispersed throughout.
While Eat Pray Love may leave you full of inner peace, this disc will leave fans feeling a bit starved. The only bonus features a very short interview with writer/director Ryan Murphy, a plug for the soundtrack, and some trailers for other Sony films. The director's cut of the film is a scant six minutes longer than its theatrical release.
Eat Pray Love won't change movies as we know it, but it will give you
two and a half hours of unabashed romantic giggles.
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