Not that it's an unpleasant movie. I believe the nine of us middle-aged ladies in theater 7 all had a fine time. Some of us even talked back to the screen. Nobody snored, even though there was not a single chase scene.
It's just that there's nothing in the movie to warrant the adulation that has kept the book of almost the same name (commas extra) on the New York Times best-seller list for 184 weeks. Not even Julia Roberts, who at 42 is about 10 years too old to play Liz - though if you need a reason to see the movie, girls, Javier Bardem could provide it. My friend and I had been making mmmm, mmmm noises during the preview of the upcoming George Clooney film, but as soon as we saw Javier, we completely forgot about George.
Still, Bardem, 41, is about 7 years too young to play Felipe, the Brazilian to whom Liz eventually succumbs. This is delightful, actually, since so many movies pair nubile young things with actors past their prime and expect female viewers to suspend disbelief. It is not at all hard to believe that Roberts could fall for Bardem.
But their romance is only part of the movie, and not the longest part. Before we ever meet sexy Felipe, we have to get through Liz's marriage, her subsequent boyfriend, her trip to Italy, her trip to India, and the first part of her trip to Bali. In an NPR review titled "The 'Eat Pray Love' Problem: How Movie Liz Ruined the Story of Book Liz," Linda Holmes writes:
Two hours and 20 minutes is simply far too long for this story. By the time Elizabeth Gilbert — or, rather, the person I will call "Movie Liz," to distinguish her from both Book Liz and actual Elizabeth Gilbert in real life — finishes up in Italy, the thought that there are two entire countries left for her to visit is like realizing at the close of a one-hour doctor's appointment that the doctor has only looked in one ear.Too many shots of pasta, Holmes suggests. Besides, I would add, the food was poorly chosen. Italy has a marvelously varied cuisine, but from this movie you might think it was one long chain of Pizza Huts.
The whole Italy portion, in fact, is a rapid succession of clichés : primitive living conditions, lecherous young men, Neapolitan clotheslines, rude gestures. The Asian portions are equally stereotypical. In India we see squalid cities and a Bollywood wedding, while in Bali we meet expats and native healers.
Of course Liz, not the countries or the other characters, is the center of attention. Befriending people everywhere she goes - natives and other tourists - she shows that she's not really a narcissist (even though the conversations are all about her). She come uncomfortably close to looking like a colonialist, though, when she gives one grateful woman a house.
In the end, Liz thinks she has learned something, but I had a hard time telling what it was. I will grant, however, that her third man is better looking, sexier, and much, much richer than the first two.
When Eat, Pray, Love was published four years ago, readers either loved it or hated it. The ones who hated it aren't going to go to this movie anyway. Unfortunately, many of the ones who loved it are likely to walk out of the theater saying, "I'm going to have to go back and reread that book. I thought there was a lot more to it than that."
If that's what you plan to do, I'd recommend taking a look at Gilbert's next book too. Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage got neither the rave reviews nor the astronomical sales of the first book, but it updates Liz's story and leaves her in a better place. My review of it is here.