Very soon into the new Julia Roberts movie Eat, Pray, Love you realise that you have made a big mistake. This isn’t helped by the realisation that the story is chopped into three chunks, each of which rightly deserves the adjective ‘interminable’. It’s not often that I have time during a film to work out exactly how many seats there are in a theatre, in the whole cinema, in the entire chain, while also wishing that I had bought a little lamp for my kindle so that I could at least read the book the film’s based on in the time it took for Julia Roberts to tour the world.
The story (the short version): A woman of about 40 who is a writer (not that she has time to write what with all her fretting) realises that she doesn’t love her husband anymore although he seems perfectly nice and his worst offence is to say he wants to go back to college to get a Masters and better himself. Clearly a bad mistake because only one person in that marriage is allowed to seek self-improvement. She falls for a handsome actor (James Franco, what are you doing in this?) but soon gets bored of him (probably because he folds her ‘delicates’ in the laundrette) and decides to set herself a goal of finding herself within twelve months. She goes to seek her lover’s guru in India via a spaghetti-fest in Rome. Finally, she ends her year in Bali and in the arms of an extremely sexy Javier Bardem (Javier Bardem, what are you doing in this?), who is an extremely sensitive, emotional father and divorcee who will, no doubt, do anything she tells him.
The main problem I have with this film (except for its length – have I made it clear yet how long this film seems/is?) is that I do not know what Julia’s character Liz wants. For the first four months she’s on a mission to prove that women should be able to eat as much as they like without having to weigh their consumed calories in guilt. The secret to being a fulfilled woman is to buy a bigger pair of jeans. The friends Liz makes in Italy all prove the rule that the path to a happy love-filled life is through the consumption of vast amounts of food and wine.
Suddenly a shift to Calcutta and now it’s a spiritual quest. Without being very spiritual. Everyone seems bored, dull and miserable. Prayers are at 4.30am and the rest of the day is spent scrubbing floors or trying to convince teenage girls about to enter a forced marriage how happy they’ll be or listening to gruff old Texans telling you that you eat so much he’s going to call you ‘Groceries’ for evermore. Now that Liz has eaten a lot and prayed a lot, she’s ready to love a lot so off to Bali where she gets run over by the man of her dreams amid some very pleasant scenery.
Usually I’m a sucker for this sort of thing – I’m one of the people who enjoyed Under a Tuscan Sun and I cried buckets of empathy through Shirley Valentine. To compound the matter, I’m a fan of Julia Roberts and, as we’re the same age, I thought here was a story that would appeal to me. I saw the warnings about how no man could watch this film and live but I thought as a woman I’d be safe.
How wrong I was. I found myself being more fascinated by Julia’s hair than by her role. The saving grace is that if it hadn’t have been for Julia Roberts in the leading role it would have been a lot worse. Although, having said that, if it hadn’t have been for Julia Roberts in the leading role I’d never have gone in the first place.
My other issue is surprise at seeing James Franco. He is too good for this, just to be the passing fad of the main character.
The final surprise – I had no idea Javier Bardem was that hot!! I’ve had friends fall for him and I couldn’t quite see the appeal so if Eat, Love, Pray has had any positive impact is that now I most certainly can.
So… what do we have? A woman who doesn’t realise how much she has, who sets about making as many men as possible unhappy, while saying that it’s all right for women to eat a lot and get fat, and that praying is good but only until you find the right man and have sex a lot.
Lovely scenery but it could have looked a whole lot better.
My advice – instead of watching this film, have an Italian meal, feast on that pasta or pizza, wash it down with a beautiful bottle of wine, laugh with a good friend.
Pictures from IMDb.