Perhaps it’s because I am a bit of a literary snob (although I feel licence should be granted here as an English student) but I have never been enamoured with the kind of popular ‘Chic-Lit’ novels exemplified by Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love. I therefore confess I went into the cinema not as a devotee of the worldwide phenomenon but merely as an admirer of the smouldering good looks of Javier Bardem and the prospect of two hours of pure escapism.
The story of a divorcee Liz (Julia Roberts) leaving behind her mundane city life in search of exotic food, men and spiritual contentment promised a refreshing change from the generic Rom-Com formula which has become all too familiar. However, I was disappointed by the film’s many pitfalls. If, like me, you haven’t read Gilbert’s original memoir, you may find the structure rather baffling: Liz travels between New York, Rome and Bali seemingly without a sense of progression, which results in a lack of cohesion between the major chapters in the film. Despite compelling performances from the supporting cast, a weak script and Roberts’ own limitations as an actress mean we are never able to fully empathise with her character, who at times appears distant and self-absorbed. Moreover, the central premise of the film (the search for identity through adopting the practices of different cultures) ends up feeling clichéd and superficial rather than poignant and revealing. My Italian friend was mortified by the outrageous stereotypes on offer in the form of Liz’s Roman friends, whose sentimental speeches contribute to the sense of the characters being cartoon-like rather than real individuals. Bardem, arguably the most talented of the actors on offer, was clearly enticed by the money rather than a dazzling script as his character is bland and one-dimensional; a watered- down version of his role in Woody Allen’s Vicky, Christina, Barcelona.
Ultimately therefore, Ryan Murphy’s adaptation falls short of being a compelling tale of self-discovery and female empowerment. Nevertheless, if you just fancy a girly night out at the cinema (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?) then there’s more than enough eye candy and stunning shots of India to keep you interested.