Movie Review: Eat Pray Love
By Matthew Huntley
August 24, 2010
Of course, there are a few key people who help Liz along the way, and they dish out obvious, albeit useful, life lessons we could have foreseen a mile away. Fortunately, the actors who speak this conventional wisdom give strong performances and we listen to what they have to say, however trite the dialogue may sound. One is an old Balinese medicine man named Ketut (Hadi Subiyato), whom we meet at the beginning and who prophesizes Liz’s crisis.
She also meets a Texas man named Richard (Richard Jenkins) at an Ashram in India. Like Liz, he’s there to regain peace and forgive himself for past sins and failures. In the movie’s best and most heartfelt scene, he speaks an uncompromised truth, which is delivered all in one take. It’s the film’s most powerful moment and it’s no surprise it belongs to Jenkins.
Another strong performance comes from Javier Bardem as Felipe, Liz’s meet-cute lover in Bali. Bardem may be one of the few actors who can kiss a man on the lips, call him darling and still maintain an assured virility. Here, he more or less plays a spin on his casual charmer character from Vicky Cristina Barcelona, only this time he’s more settled. Despite the direction we know the movie will take once Bardem enters the picture, we still enjoy his presence.
As we expect, the supporting characters allow Liz to learn that nothing in life is certain, no matter how much we plan (or don’t plan) for it. Yes, this is an obvious lesson, and it’s probably spelled out even more blatantly in the real Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling book of the same name, but what’s curious about the movie is that it abstains from providing quick resolutions and artificial happiness, even though it has the opportunities. I was surprised how long Liz continued to experience heartache and uncertainty. Given the movie was produced by a major Hollywood studio, I figured it would jump to the happy endings and profound life lessons faster, but its patience gives us time to identify with Liz and look beyond the fact she’s traveling in beautiful parts of the world. It reminds us that one can be physically standing in paradise but that such a world is irrelevant when one is unsure of who they are or where they’re going.
Eat Pray Love is a not a great movie, but it is entertaining and sort of truthful. It accomplishes its goal of getting us to care about Liz and see her not as a spoiled, narcissistic drama queen but as a scarred woman who needs to trust herself again. Liz is sad and I was sad for her, but not in a pitying sort of way, but in the sense I understood her dilemma. Liz is unhappy, but she’s not sure why and she needs to find out so she can help herself. Roberts, still likable as ever, plays Liz in such a way that we want this to happen. We see beyond the locations and decadence and focus on her as a person. I would have liked the movie even more had it the courage not to resort to such an auto-pilot ending, but everything before that examines this woman’s problem up close. And, like Liz, we see her crisis as something that needs to be solved before she can go on living.