Julia Roberts and Ryan Murphy are not generally known for being schmaltzy (no, I ain’t Jewish, but it’s the perfect word), yet Eat Pray Love showcases how saccharine a mainstream movie can be--at its most uncomfortable when Julia Roberts as Liz Gilbert goes to an ashram in India and meets “Richard from Texas” and it gets all typically confessional and sad (Richard was a drunk who drove his wife and child away and now spends time “trying to forgive himself” through prayer). I don’t know, perhaps if I were more spiritual, it would resonate with me.
But I still maintain that Roberts and Murphy have produced far better, far more meaningful work. Maybe it’s because both of them are so accustomed to being involved in intense projects (Roberts with Erin Brockovich, Stepmom, and the iconic Pretty Woman and Murphy with Nip/Tuck and Running With Scissors) that they chose a movie designed to “pull at the heartstrings,” as they say.
Unfortunately for me, the pull was in my stomach, making me want to vomit after two hours and fourteen minutes of watching a glorified Oxygen movie. Even the scenery in Italy wasn’t enough to tide me over through the other hour and thirty minutes, because, pretty much from the moment Liz leaves Rome, this movie is boring as all get-out.
The only true to life scene is in a barbershop in Italy as Liz listens to her Italian tutor, Giovanni (Luca Argentero) tell her that Americans may know entertainment, but they know nothing of pleasure. They always feel guilty for relaxing, but the Italians have a saying, “Dolce fare niente,” which means the sweetness of doing nothing. Perhaps if Ryan Murphy and Jennifer Salt (the co-writer of the script) had taken this approach, the resulting effect would seem a bit more organic, rather than totally forced for the sake of cashing in on Liz Gilbert’s ultra-successful memoir.
Oh, and on a completely different side note, why is it that every time someone goes to India, we have to be assaulted with the visual of the person anxiously sitting in the back of a cab as he prepares to die while the driver weaves in and out of traffic (as with The Darjeeling Limited) and, just to make sure you get the feel for India, a song by M.I.A. will play in the background (as with Slumdog Millionaire)? In the case of Eat Pray Love, that song is "Boyz." Incidentally, it’s like the only good song in the movie and it’s not even on the soundtrack.