Eat Pray Love (2010) Directed by Ryan Murphy


Nick:
My thinking week has been dominated by an inner anguish. Jeremy Corbyn has re-awakened my interest in British politics. Yet, I've been rather disturbed how aspects of the media in the UK have been treating Corbyn (and not just the-bat-shit-scary right-wing press). I love reading The Guardian but it's been slowly losing me these last few weeks, it's revealed its Tory-lite second skin and it is making me sick. We also have a media in Finland obsessed with covering every syllable that's uttered from the treacherous lips of the NEW GOVERNMENT. Where's the balance Finland? Can't we bring a mandatory ban on reporting anything Sipilä and his cronies say till he kicks out the known fascists that make up part of his coalition? Can't we give equal voice to the opposition for a change? I think democracies are supposed to work like that. Or are we just supposed to let our jaws drop at the numbing awfulness of it all and just kill any resistance to this political-hate-crime? With all this burning rage inside me what possible chance could a piece of powder-puff nonsense like Eat Pray Love possibly have?

Julia contemplates the harsh realities in an Italian restaurant
It's really possible to say that Eat Pray Love presents a career nadir for all involved. Watching this movie is akin to finding the unflushed turd in your toilet bowl, the fly in your eye, the bird shit on your shoulder. I can't tell you how awful (patronizing/lacking in life and ideas) this movie was. They have to invent a new word for flat, because Eat Pray Love demonstrated a new level of flatness that the old word cannot do justice to. I really rate Julia Roberts, but in Eat Pray Love she floats in a cesspool of nothingness. It's hard to imagine or even comprehend that a movie could be so bad as to remove the sparkle from Julia's smile, but Eat Pray Love manages this. We don't care for Robert's character or weather she finds herself.


James Franco and Billy Crudup should hang their heads in shame to have said yes to this mess. Are there any redeeming features?  Richard Jenkins and Javier Bardem try to add some spark and semblance of chemistry with Julia, but it isn't happening. Murphy, who had made an OK quirk-fest with Running With Scissors has sold his soul to tell this story of Liz Gilbert's passage of re-birth. This new-age-bullshit-fantasy-yuppie-wet-dream is part of the problem. It's like the Tory lie that they're working it out, trust them, it will come. Eat Pray Love never ever feels like delivering the promise of anything. It's for people my age, at some middle age crisis, and it just brings home my new adage: I hope I die before I become the people in Eat Pray Love. Hollywood in all its wasteful indulgence and offensiveness lives here.

Astrid:
Recently I got it in my head that if I would re-watch Eat Pray Love it would be great entertainment instead of painfully and offensively boring. I thought that what felt way under-intellectual in 2010 might be just fine in 2015. This urge went nicely with a need to see more early 2000s movies, like The Banger Sisters (2002) and Something's Gotta Give (2003). Films I had missed when I was 21 because I was too busy lusting after my (intellectual older) boyfriend during yet another long scene in a Spaghetti Western. The other reason I bought Eat Pray Love on DVD (yes, how 2005 of me! but it wasn't on Netflix or any other streaming service) was that I had been watching Elizabeth Gilbert interviews and TED talks on Youtube and I was kind of under her spell. In her recent appearances the writer of the book Eat Pray Love discusses creative work, the aftermath of huge success (Eat Pray Love) and the survival instincts that kick in after failure (the book after EPL). Gilbert has many great sentences up her sleeve.
Elizabeth Gilbert with Julia Roberts
Strange broken lines are drawn between Eat Pray Love the book and the movie: a self-help book/memoir written in light autobiographical voice becomes a feature film. The writerly, a little disheveled intellectual and lively woman that is the author Elizabeth Gilbert becomes Julia Roberts on screen. Roberts has made some fantastic appearances in the recent years (like August: Osage County 2013) but this is not one of them – here she is sleepwalking, cool as a cucumber for 2,5 hours. With this Hollywood sugar coating of the memoir Elizabeth becomes a rubbery privileged white supermodel of a woman. It is almost impossible to get excited by her travels across the planet. Everything seems so safe, disconnected, self-involved and immature. If this is all life has on offer to the enlightened ones, we might have more fun when we are not searching for happiness or self-fulfilment. When I read the book on a tour bus in 2010 I remember thinking 'who is this for?' That's my question again.

Julia as Elizabeth in Bali
Eat Pray Love is an offensive movie because it presupposes a universality. It is not entertaining – instead it is uncommonly dull. It is not thrilling and ground-breaking. It lacks humour, daring and understanding. It is like a completely monetized, sanitized and thus odor-free representation of a woman's life. The offensiveness truly comes from the fact that this was a really popular representation of a woman's inner and outer journey. Like this: hey, go to Italy and eat white wheat! That is radical! This film is also completely blind to class, race and sexuality differences that might actually matter and be a reality worth noting. India, Bali, Italy and other non-US countries appear in the film like flat general backgrounds that are there just to facilitate the privileged white woman's saga. And when it comes to romance, Emily BrontĂ« would die in shame and boredom if she ever saw this. When I read this book years ago I seriously considered writing my own memoir/self-help book as a feminist reaction to Eat Pray Love. Then I forgot about it. Gilbert would say that this means that it is not my true calling then. Maybe not. You know what bugs me the most? That this was a missed opportunity, because Elizabeth Gilbert is an amazing thinking woman who possesses much of the edge that the movie lacks. And Julia Roberts is all that too. Just not here.

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