I caught up on a film I’ve been wanting to see since the summer — Eat Pray Love. My he said/she said co-reviewer Eric Robinette saw this film while in theaters and his comments are interspersed. The film is based on a book of the same name by Liz Gilbert. The book is the memoir of the ~mid-30s Gilbert, a writer. She’s recently divorced and feels disenchated by just about everything. She can’t seem to accept the love of others and by no means can give the love herself. She’s overwhelmed and needs to “find herself.” So she heads off to the Europe area for a year+. She spends four months in Rome, then time in India and then time in Bali.
I loved the adventures Gilbert (Julia Roberts) experienced and the memorable friends she made a long the way. Whether it was another blonde American exploring Rome, Italy, or an intense Texan named Richard looking for self-forgiveness in India, Gilbert learned something valuable from each character. While trying to find inner peace in meditation, Gilbert meets Felipe (Javier Bardem), a sexy foreigner that of course she falls in love with. Felipe is also recently divorced and has a lot in common with Gilbert which helps build the foundation of the relationship.
Robinette said it was Richard’s character that made the movie click for him, “Every once in awhile, a glimmer of wisdom or poignancy cuts through all the emotional muck, particularly when Richard Jenkins (The Visitor) is on screen, portraying a man with a haunted past. He plays one heart-rending scene that made me realize there really was a story here, and made me wish the whole movie could have been that affecting.”
Gilbert is recently divorced from the seemingly-perfect Stephen (Billy Crudup) and recently broken up from her rebound boyfriend David (James Franco). She struggles in finding what she wants and is afraid to let herself love again (even though she wasn’t hurt by any of her past lovers). She’s the one that ends the relationships because she’s too insecure to love, but we don’t really find out why. I can understand her concern, it does suck being hurt by love as it’s not something you can control. I admired Gilbert’s character for having the courage to leave her normal life to really focus on herself. She was criticized for being single, for indulging in food and for wanting to take care of herself before anyone else. But she continued to stand up for herself and didn’t prolong situations, i.e. her marriage, just to appease others. Robinette also empathizes with Gilbert, “I do understand the loneliness and isolation Gilbert feels, and I don’t begrudge her playing Magellan.”
A point Robinette and I disagree on is the quality of Roberts’ performance. I think Roberts was perfect to play the part of Gilbert, and played it in a very compelling way. One moment of the film that really sticks out to me was when Gilbert hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for her friends in Rome and said she was thankful for being able to see happiness around her, but didn’t say she was happy herself. Like she almost didn’t deserve to be happy, which she overcomes by the film’s end.
Robinette says, “Unfortunately, Roberts and (director Ryan) Murphy fail to make the journey compelling. Gilbert, as played by Roberts, comes off as irritatingly self-possessed at first. It’s clear her husband (Billy Crudup) loves her and has done nothing “wrong” except to get caught in the cross-hairs of his wife’s mid-life crisis … Roberts tries hard to give the material some emotional weight, but she struggles against two things: an unsympathetic character, and her own vivacious persona. There are too many Julia-isms, such as that horsey laugh, which gets overused and clashes with the character.” Read his full review here.