Eat Pray Love Serves Near-Constant Catharsis, But Hardly Any Arc
Lusciously shot by Oscar winner Robert Richardson (The Aviator, JFK), Eat Pray Love delivers a sensory overload as intense as Inception's, but heavily calibrated to stir the hearts, loins, and tear ducts of women for whom love handles and spiritual bankruptcy are of equally pressing concern. Julia Roberts's Liz leaves behind flaky husband Billy Crudup and "Yonkers yogi" boy-toy James Franco to embark on a year-long solo walkabout, with stops in Italy, India, and Bali. Writer/director Ryan Murphy keeps emotional currents bubbling on the surface, serving up near-constant catharsis but hardly any arcthe title is a spoiler in three parts. As vicarious travelogue, EPL stumbles by flattening its loaded locations into (beautifully photographed) set dressing. Politics and economics hardly exist; each place is populated chiefly by wise exotics who talk funny (including Richard Jenkins's Texan in the ashram) and exist solely to spout slogans and tell stories that make Liz's problems seem small: "Believe in love again!" "Americans know entertainment, but not pleasure!" "It won't last forevernothing does!" Liz's happily-ever-after hookup with hunky divorcé Javier Bardem should be EPL's glorious guilty-pleasure climax; instead, it's a rushed foregone conclusion. Though targeted at the same female filmgoers who flocked to the self-realization via food porn of Julie and Julia, EPL is a comparative downer, offering the rush of self-improvement without having to do any of the work. I cried. Mission accomplished?
Get the Film Club Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.