Pretty Woman meets Ugly American in Eat, Pray, Love, a gender reversal romp in which the woman for a change instead of the womanizing man, gets to be the one with commitment issues. And while this female free spirit fling junkie cruise around the planet for high carb self-fulfillment is clearly likewise cruising in search of the chick flick demographic, the misguided message seems to be that hedonism is the new feminism.
Julia Roberts is Liz Gilbert, a professional writer and depressed spouse who splits from her marriage on an impulse one day, leaving her husband (Billy Crudup) in a state of shock, because she’s revolted by his desire to be a dad. And Liz’s aversion to dirty diapers, when observed at the home of her publisher, a brand new mom (Viola Davis), sends the faithless female into the arms of a younger guy stage actor, (James Franco).
But following this second anxiety attack in the love department having to do with the way said boy toy neatly folds her clean undies in the laundromat, Liz is outta there, and off on a one year flight from reality to wherever. As long as it’s exotic and boasting assorted metaphorical pleasure palaces. And though how she manages to finance the hefty price tag on such getaways these days remains a mystery, back in the real world the Elizabeth Gilbert bestseller on which this whimsical outing is based, was actually more on the premeditated side, funded by a generous advance received to write the memoir.
Eat, Pray, Love with its pampered princess on constant display is so utterly self-indulgent and into extreme disconnect with its surroundings, that the movie ends up as much less about exploring new worlds than getting stuck in the protagonist’s old petulant overblown ego. And as this modern day Goldilocks samples and finds lacking assorted tempting hunks for no discernible reason at all, that Liz eventually settles on a Brazilian Australian in Bali over the alternatives back home because there’s presumably more in common, makes no sense at all. Especially because the only bond the lovebirds seem to share in contrast to the other potential mates, is sex, sex, sex.
The scenery is fine to look at, but seeing Julia Roberts thoughtlessly rummaging through the male population, is another matter. Liz does learn a few things along the way about leading the liberated life, including mastering the art of guilt-free eating and embracing your inner fatty – not exactly a small feat in that sexist fashion police culture back home – while being defiantly anti-motherhood and proud.
But the tendency of Nip/Tuck director Ryan Murphy to depict the locals of color in foreign lands as caricatured buffoonish backdrop while invisibilizing the impoverished millions of India so they don’t rain on Liz’s parade, neutralizes any high minded notions on the narrative menu. In addition to her bragging rights around landing reasonable hotel rates because of terrorism in the vicinity. Not to mention the self-centered shallow screenplay of Jennifer Salt, a disappointing followup to dad Waldo Salt’s idealism and persecution as a blacklisted writer during the McCarthy period.
Eat, Pray, Love: Me, Myself, And I, and a side order of serious jet lag.
1 [out of 4] stars