When I was offered a free ticket for two to see Eat Pray Love this morning (thanks Adel!), I accepted the offer as I was quite curious whether the movie would live up to the hype surrounding it. It is based on the hugely popular book of the same name by Elizabeth Gilbert, who broke up with her husband, hooked up with an aspiring actor while she was on a rebound, and then thought that she should spend a year abroad to rediscover herself. She ended up spending four months in Italy (to Eat), four months in an ashram in India (to Pray), and in Bali, Indonesia (to Love).
I haven’t read the book so I can’t really comment on that – if I take that premise of the story alone, I would’ve loved the movie to be directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie) or even by the late Krzysztof Kieślowski (Three Colors Trilogy) and for the three episodes to be presented distinctly with different nuances and styles. Ryan Murphy did do a good job in presenting the lusciousness of Italian food, the hectic life in India as well the lush, almost idyllic life in Bali. However there seems to be a distinct detachment feel to the movie, that I find hard to explain.
When I watch a good movie, I would be drawn into the story, feel what the character feels and immerse myself in the experience. With Eat Pray Love, I don’t feel that at all. “Because you’re an insensitive dork of a man”, you say. Well, true, perhaps I can’t really get the full empathic experience that female viewers have of the movie. Whilst of course the views of Italy, India and Bali are all very beautiful indeed, the charm seems to be kept at an arm’s length. It’s that sense of detachment again.
Julia Roberts is charming as usual, and there’s a scene where she says goodbye to a fellow devotee in India that I feel like I should rush and give her a big hug. She looks so vulnerable and sweet in that scene. Javier Bardem also injects a lot of life into the last part of the movie, which is also the part which I enjoyed the most. It’s good to see Christine Hakim as well – a truly talented Indonesian actress being involved in the movie. I would’ve been really cross if they had casted Michelle Yeoh or any other Asian actors in the movie to be the Indonesian characters.
What I find very enjoyable with the movie is the music and the songs. Dario Marinelli, who composes the memorable score for Atonement is the one responsible for this movie. I don’t know whether it was his idea to put some Joao Gilberto and Bebel Gilberto songs in the movie. They’re perfect for the Balinese scenes!
So all in all, this movie would be enjoyable for those who are looking for a holiday destination – it’s like watching a travelogue imbibed with some feminine melancholia and the find-your-spiritual-self-mumbo-jumbo. I would’ve loved it a lot more had the director had more fun with the movie.
PS, At least I learn a wonderful Italian phrase, “Dolce far niente” which roughly means sweet idleness. Very sweet indeed!