Eat, Pray, Love ★★★½
(USA, 133 min.)
Dir: Ryan Murphy; Writ: Ryan Murphy & Jennifer Salt
Starring: Julia Roberts, Hadi Subiyanto, Richard Jenkins, Javier Bardem, Viola Davis, James Franco, and Billy Crudup.
mixed feelings about it, to say the least. While I found there to be many admirable qualities about Gilbert’s memoir, I felt that Gilbert was her own hindrance, as her inspirational narrative was frequently marred by her narcissistic ranting.
Liz gets a makeover thanks to Julia Roberts and the retooled screenplay by Ryan Murphy and Jennifer Salt. Gone are Liz’s grating self-absorption and condescending sermons - the new Liz is more self-deprecating and accessible. Most of the success comes from the screenwriters’ decision to reconfigure Liz’s story and move most of her motivation to go on her trip up to the beginning of the film where it belongs. In the book, Gilbert opened by describing some of the events that led her to extricate herself from her troubled relationship, most notably the scene in which she prays to God in the bathroom. Concerning her relationship with her husband, however, she glossed over much of what went wrong, but never missed an opportunity to take a shot at him.
In the film, Murphy takes the time to detail the dissolution of Gilbert’s self in her empty marriage, and he takes the necessary steps to depict Gilbert’s divorce and subsequent rebound relationship. As a result, it’s easier to understand Liz’s despair and feel compassionate for her whenever she looks back in anger; moreover, Roberts nails the early scenes in which Liz describes her lost appetite for life, so her year-long expedition is more apparent as a necessary catharsis, whereas in her memoir, Gilbert seemed to be escaping her problems with little regard for the other parties involved. The thorough development of Liz’s self-breakdown also gives the film a fine balance, as the darker moments of her life are in the early parts of the film, and her journey is, therefore, much lighter, more enjoyable, and more enlightening.
Ryan Murphy also fares much better here than he did in Running With Scissors, his last page-to-screen outing. Although the film is sometimes uneven and a little slow, Murphy’s treatment of Gilbert’s memoir allows her lessons to be easily digested. More often than not, everything in Eat, Pray, Love comes together and transports you through a picturesque voyage of self-discovery.