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Eat Pray Love movie poster

Eat Pray Love: Movie Review

Rated: PG-13
Directed by: Ryan Murphy
Starring: Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem, Billy Crudup, James Franco, Richard Jenkins, Viola Davis
Released by: Columbia Pictures

In Short: With a spoiled, unlikable protagonist who heads off to find herself in Italy, India and Bali, this slow-moving slog feels like the viewer has descended into chick flick hell.

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A Journey to Nowhere

When a movie takes you on a journey of self-discovery, there’s a fundamental thing that must happen. You have to care about the protagonist (a female in the case of “Eat Pray Love”). You need to believe in that person’s need to take the trip in the first place, invest yourself in her life and then root for her as she goes through the trials that ultimately create the seismic shift in her perceptions and very life itself.
That’s what should happen. But in “Eat Pray Love,” the cinematic adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling memoir of her quest for fulfillment starring Julia Roberts, you do not care for a moment what happens to her. Liz is a beautiful, successful New York writer, moving in the chicest circles of Manhattan society, with a handsome husband (Billy Crudup) along for the ride. But having it all simply isn’t enough for her.

So she dumps the husband, immediately finds another hot man (James Franco) to bed down with, and soon tires of him, too. Poor thing, what’s a woman who has it all but is bored going to do? Head for Italy first, that’s what, to find herself in food; then on to India for a little penance time in an ashram; and finally to Bali, where, after hours of interminable navel-gazing and truly bad emoting over her empty life, she finds yet another hot guy (Javier Bardem) who falls madly in love with her.

Javier Bardem and Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love

This pretty travelogue filled with pretty people is the latest in a new genre of cinema that we call “chick porn.” No, there’s no explicit sex; instead, these are movies that allow everyday women to fantasize (thus the “porn” moniker) about having a life filled with endless possibilities. They go to these films to pretend that they, too, can be a woman who has unlimited financial resources as well as the ability to attract (at every turn) fantastically gorgeous men who fall deeply in love at the first glance.

There’s nothing wrong about women wanting to escape into this fantasy for a few hours if there’s something enjoyable about the film; think “Sex and the City” or “It’s Complicated,” as movies that decently fulfill that need. But in this case, remove all the humor, take away the fantastic clothes and get rid of any emotional feeling for the heroine that you had in those other films, and you’ve got the glacially paced, squirmingly bad “Eat Pray Love.”

In other words, this is one chick flick that even a chick will find hard to love. Perhaps eating or praying while watching might help, but we doubt it.

Reviewed by Jenny Peters

(Updated: 10/12/10 CT)

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