Well, I saw the movie version of Eat Pray Love, and my overall impression was “meh.” I read the book and liked part of it (the first 100 pages, actually) but I kept waiting for Julia Roberts to show the deep emotional pain of Elizabeth Gilbert, and it never happened. A few more tears, Julia! Some genuine anguish in your expressions! You’ve been through one of the worst divorces ever! You cried buckets in the book.
I guess that’s also the fault of the director. Maybe he felt intimidated by the icon that is Julia and didn’t want to guide her too much? As I said on Twitter, it’s never good when you keep thinking of ways to improve the movie while you’re watching it.
Do you ever sit there at the end of a film and think, “Wow, that could have been a GREAT movie, but they just missed the mark”? It’s so frustrating to think of all that cash and manpower and time you’ll never get back for something…mediocre. Just because a book garners a cult following doesn’t mean it will translate into a good movie. And I have to wonder what Gilbert thinks of all that adulation? I hope she’s uncomfortable with it.
I thought my time would be a bit worthwhile with gorgeous scenery, but the lighting was very dark for some reason. Why on earth would they do that to places like Italy, India and Bali? To show that she was living a bleak existence? I’m used to darkness in French period films like Camille Claudel. I guess they want to be authentic to the times when everything was by candlelight. I have to fight the urge to get out a flashlight at those screenings. But a big American blockbluster? Please.
Two of the brighter spots in Eat Pray Love were Richard Jenkins (one of the most unappreciated actors alive–did you see him in Six Feet Under? Brilliant.) and Javier Bardem. They provided the emotion missing in the rest of the movie, and I wish their parts had been bigger. Unfortunately, Roberts and Bardem had very little chemistry, and that’s hard to pull off with one of the most charismatic actors alive. (See him in Vicky Christina Barcelona!)
Many of the supporting roles were good too. A young Indian girl in an arranged marriage was heartbreaking, and the woman who healed Roberts in Bali was spot-on. The guru/witch doctor was a little over the top, but sweet.
I am fully aware that movies are rarely as good as the book. The only exception for me has been Brideshead Revisited. (The PBS version. It’s four DVDs on Netflix) They were so faithful to the book, it killed me. I just can’t go there again–leave my bittersweet memories intact, thanks. But Hollywood, please reconsider when you think of casting a less-talented, big-name actor that distracts from a decent story. I know box office is everything, but this is why I prefer independent flicks and/or foreign films. Low-budget, intelligent stories with great acting.
To all the Julia Roberts fans out there, I’m sorry. I liked Julia in Mystic Pizza & Pretty Woman (hey, even I like formulaic schlock from time to time). I also thought she did a decent job in Erin Brockovich. Did she deserve an Oscar for the latter? In my opinion, no. Julia is great at playing America’s sweetheart, but she is neither Kate Winslett, Meryl Streep nor Cate Blanchett. So Julia and the blockbusters go hand in hand. But I really wish I’d passed on this one.