Monday, August 16, 2010


"Eat Pray Love" is the latest incarnation of the archetypal female journey. It's the trip every woman wants to take. Unlike Ulysses whose journey requires him to fight all manner of monsters and physical obstacles in order to literally get "home," author Liz Gilbert's journey- a woman fleeing an unhappy marriage on a year-long sojourn to Italy, India, and Bali-- requires her to turn inward; the demons she fights are spiritual, emotional, psychological,and the home she seeks is herself.

Whew. Are we clear? Women get this, seek this, crave this experience. And in the person of Julia Roberts the experience is a voluptuous escape. She is transparently alive in every moment. She suffers and seeks and rejoices in infinite ways. We feel her need to break free. That big grin of hers has become much more subtle over time, and we're in on the whole experience. She's glorious to watch, really.

Richard Jenkins as Liz's meditation mentor has an exquisite scene of barely contained emotional pain; it's almost unendurable to watch. Javier Bardem as Liz's new man is tender and earthy; Billy Crudup is pitch perfect as the husband who is just "off putting" enough. And the supremely appealing James Franco has never been more unappealing--a testament to his acting prowess.

The film delivers a rich sense of place-- and we are immersed in the unique light of these places-- and their pleasures. I tasted every luscious strand of spaghetti, felt the burnished heat of India, and breathed in Bali's lambent glow.

The movie has some difficulty maintaining forward momentum and flattens out some of the more unbelievable real life extrasensory and transcendent experiences; the ending drifts off. The book's last third has similar difficulty. But given the lay of the land Gilbert and the filmmakers have mapped out, I remained inspired; what a trip.

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