If your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your mother, grandmother, father, grandfather, friend, colleague or Facebook stalker convinces you to accompany them to a screening of Eat Pray Love, my immediate advice – conferred in the spirit of harm minimisation – is to wait until after the movie to eat.
For this I have two reasons: 1) because director Ryan Murphy shoots mouth salivating Italian dishes through the sort of rosy romantic lens that would have turned star Julia Roberts green with jealousy and driven her to holler something along the lines of “that meatball will never work in this town again!” were she not the owner of the mouth to which said meatball was deposited and 2) because this syrupy sweet cinematic soufflé is so syrupy sweet it will likely turn the stomachs of anybody who doesn’t have a particular fondness for syrupy sweet cinematic soufflés. And it isn’t just the sweetness: Eat Pray Love is also deep fried in the sort of flasher-with-a-trenchcoat obviousness for which Hollywood is widely known and criticised.
Bookended by silly scenes in which the protagonist seeks counsel from a toothless smiling oracle, the story follows Liz (Roberts) as she fumbles her way through a pre-mid-life mid-life crisis. She drops her husband Stephen (Billy Crudup) like a sack of potatoes and persues a two point plan: hook up with other men and eat nice food.
Allure, fate and the path outlined by author Elizabeth Gilbert on whose book the film is based lead Liz to Italy, India and finally Bali, where she jumps under the bed sheets with Javier Bardem and discovers the true meaning of (*cringe*) the last word of the title. If you thought those three words might be subtly interwoven into a fusion of the protag’s experiences, think again. Italy signifies “eat,” India signifies “pray” and Bali – no prizes for guessing.
The character development is so poor that the first pivotal moment in Liz’s journey – the early trigger that literally gets her off the bedroom floor and into divorce court – feels implausibly casual. It plays as if she went for a walk happily married and came back single with a loaf of bread and, all of a sudden, apparently, an aching chasm in her soul.
That moment sets a bad precedent for the rest of the narrative and the supporting characters, particularly the man meat (Crudup, Bardem and James Franco) for whom Roberts’ wide red lips are directed. Eat Pray Love is the sort of chick flick which manages to offend both genders: the women are like chalk outlines in search of a man to fill them and the men are like hunks of dead meat strung up and skewered by their lovers in an abattoir comprised of the cinematic equivalent of Mills and Boon romanticism.
If that sounds tasty, then tuck in.
Eat Pray Love’s Australian theatrical release date: October 7, 2010.