D: Ryan Murphy. DP: Robert Richardson. W: Murphy & Jennifer Salt. Starring: Julia Roberts/Javier Bardem/James Franco/Billy Crudup/Richard Jenkins/Viola Davis/Hadi Subiyanto/Tuva Novotny/Luca Argentero/Rushita Singh. (NOTE: Based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir of the same name.)
In her first solo venture in a while, Julia Roberts returns to the screen as real life writer Liz Gilbert whose memoir Eat Pray Love is not only flying off bookshelves, but now filling seats.
Helmed by Ryan Murphy of Fox’s television hit Glee fame, the film attempts to chronicle Gilbert’s struggle to divorce her husband and go on a year long trip. And although the film does not make it clear, this trip to Italy, India and Bali is funded by her publishers as an advance on the book she would write about her travels. I’m sure neither Gilbert or her publishers anticipated the craze that making this film as churned out.
What works for Eat Pray Love is that the film seems more like a travel log. Why travelers eat, visit, breathe, and wonder at places they do around the world. Roberts is comfortable as Gilbert although her inherent glamour and beauty makes it harder to remember that Gilbert is as real and human as the rest of us. Murphy does well to showcase the locations without distracting from the real subject; how Roberts feels in these locations and how she responds to them. The film seems to lush compared to others out this summer. The sets breathe and envelope the story so much so that its easy to feel that you must pack your bags and start your own instant. Find your own new space to listen to yourself better.
What the film cannot delve into though is Liz Gilbert’s internal struggle about her divorce, happiness, love, self actualization, and drive. Although this may not be a fault of this specific film, but rather the change of mediums from book to film, Eat Pray Love still lacks that element that made the memoir so poignant. Murphy uses voice over well and doesn’t over indulge on trying to clue audiences in through filmic devices. However, the honesty and nakedness of the memoir is somehow lost in the movie. Rather we see a woman simply needing to find herself and start anew, when really it was so much more.
Lastly, Eat Pray Love will sadly probably get lost amidst the hustle of August releases. It is not a love story nor a story filled with tons of action. In fact an incident with a car and a bicycle was added in to provide a better and more exciting introduction to a certain character. Alas, what I can hope is that the film might spark people to Liz Gilbert’s memoir, her other novels and admit to themselves something. That it’s time we’re all a little more honest and a little less afraid.