Eat, pray, leave screaming

Once Gilbert (played by Julia Roberts) decides to start her travels, the film reels from one stereotype to the next.

Saeed Rahman September 01, 2010

I have to admit I was filled with apprehension before I even settled down to watch Eat, Pray, Love having seen Julia Roberts enjoying a close encounter with an elephant in the trailer.

Eat, Pray, Love is based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir, with Julia Roberts playing the author. The book was a publishing phenomenon, spending nearly two years on The New York Times bestseller list. The movie seems to be enjoying similar success.

Taking place over the course of the year as Gilbert journeys to Italy, India and Indonesia for some self-evaluation and personal growth, the eat portion of the film takes place in Italy, the praying in India and the love sweeps our heroine off her feet in Indonesia. It opens well enough. Gilbert breaks up with her husband, played by Billy Crudup, when she realises that she’s just not into her marriage. It’s not often that you see a female protagonist admitting that maybe she doesn’t care for domesticity. More predictable, perhaps, is the rebound relationship that follows as Gilbert pursues a romance with a younger man, which seems doomed from the get go. Up until this point, the film still had some promise, causing me to lower my defences and think I may have been wrong to have been apprehensive. Oh, but I was too easily deceived.

Once Gilbert decides to start her travels, the film reels from one stereotype to the next. The Italy portion of the movie finds our heroine tucking into plate after plate of pizza, and letting go of her obsession with weight. Fair enough. Italy itself is so likeable that some of it rubs off on her. Not so with India. Gilbert enrols herself into an ashram and the clichés just keep on rolling. There is ample dialogue about letting go of pain and letting love in and other assorted snippets of psychobabble. At the ashram Gilbert meets Richard, a fellow American, to discuss new age clichés with.

Finally, and not one moment too soon, Gilbert heads off to Indonesia, but don’t think you’re out of the woods regarding her spiritual search i.e. hippy dippy land. Gilbert now finds herself tutored in life lessons by a Indonesian Wise Man, Ketut. Of course, Ketut has a charming accent and provides oodles of heart-warming advice about, yes wait for it, opening yourself up to love. In Bali, Gilbert runs in to Felipe, played by the charismatic Javier Bardem. They flirt and talk about opening themselves up to love, and eventually they do just that. Bardem plays the hot, overly emotional Latin man to perfection, the role really does not require much, besides he’s already played it many times over. As the credits rolled, I had to hold back from clapping to celebrate the relief of surviving to the end.

Eat, Pray, Love trades in every banal self help aphorism out there. Pardon the cruelty, but it creates a sense of purpose for the type of anxious, upper middle class, nearing middle-age woman who feels a lack of significance to her life and is unable to accept that this is probably just because she isn’t significant, not because she hasn’t learned to love herself in one-on-one tutorials with Deepak Chopra. Instead of working with the material and giving it depth and richness, the film just takes the easy route. I wish I’d taken the easy route, the one to leading to the cinema exit.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2010.


Sarfaraz | 11 years ago | Reply It speaks volumes about your professionalism as a critic that you decided to hate the movie before even watching it. Stay classy Saeed Rahman.
Anonymous | 11 years ago | Reply Brilliant review! I hated the book myself and have no intentions of seeing the film.
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