EAT, PRAY, LOVE 1/4
Sony Pictures, Rated PG-13
Pretty Woman meets Ugly American in Eat, Pray, Love, a Goldilocks and the Three Boy Toys gender reversal romp in which the woman—instead of the womanizing man—gets to be the one with commitment issues. And while this female free-spirit fling around the planet for high carb self-fulfillment is clearly in search of the chick flick demographic, the misguided message seems to be that hedonism is the new feminism.
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Julia Roberts is Liz Gilbert, a professional writer and depressed spouse who splits from her marriage on an impulse one day, leaving her husband (Billy Crudup) in a state of shock, because she’s revolted by his desire to be a dad. Liz’s aversion to dirty diapers, when observed at the home of her publisher who’s a brand new mom (Viola Davis), sends her into the arms of a younger stage actor (James Franco).
But following this second love-provoked anxiety attack—this one having to do with the way said boy toy neatly folds her clean undies in the Laundromat—Liz books it and goes off on a one-year flight from reality to… wherever, as long as it’s exotic and boasting assorted metaphorical pleasure palaces. How she manages to finance the hefty price tag on such getaways these days remains a mystery (though back in the real world, the outing which led to the Elizabeth Gilbert bestseller on which Eat, Pray, Love is based was premeditated and funded by a generous advance).
Eat, Pray, Love, with its pampered princess on constant display, is so utterly self-indulgent and disconnected from its surroundings that the movie ends up less about exploring new worlds than getting stuck in the protagonist’s overblown ego. And as this modern-day Goldilocks samples assorted hunks and finds them lacking for no discernible reason, Liz eventually settles on a Brazilian Australian in Bali. But the presumption her decision comes as a result of there being more in common with him than her other conquests isn’t the reason. The only bond these lovebirds seem to share is Sex, Sex, Sex.
Liz does learn a few things along the way about leading the liberated life, including mastering the art of guilt-free eating and embracing your inner fatty while being defiantly anti-motherhood and proud. But the tendency of Nip/Tuck director Ryan Murphy to depict the locals in foreign lands as caricatured backdrop while invisibilizing the impoverished millions of India so they don’t rain on Liz’s parade neutralizes any high-minded narrative notions.
Eat, Pray, Love: More like Me, Myself, and I.