Cinematic adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s incredibly successful memoir (written & directed by Ryan Murphy with assist from actress turned screenwriter Jennifer Salt) has all the right pieces (charismatic stars, fabulous location shots, terrific soundtrack), but in the end, there’s no there there, making the whole far less than the sum of its parts. Soulless “spiritual journey” succeeds as an enjoyable–but forgettable–travel romance. Qualified recommendation by me & Rich. Click HERE for FF2 haiku.
Penny Rants On…
Date: May 1974
Time: Early Evening
Place: Street Scene; Florence, Italy
I’m suddenly hit with a giggle fit. “What’s up?” asks my surprised companion. “My mother always says she has ‘the vibes’,” I reply. “I wonder if she sees me now—eating artichoke pizza for dinner… with lemon gelato for dessert?!?”
So when I read Eat Pray Love, it was easy to enough to slide into the platters of pasta Elizabeth Gilbert describes in the “Eat” phase (phase one) of her spiritual quest. And once she had me hooked, I was happy enough to go along for the rest of the ride.
But, alas, perhaps the only thing more boring than watching someone else eat is watching her meditate. So while I certainly sympathize with the urge to be true to their source book, I think screenwriters Ryan Murphy & Jennifer Salt lost track of their first imperative: make an interesting film.
Times have changed since Gilbert (played onscreen by Julia Roberts) first met Felipe—hero of the “Love” phase (played on screen by Javier Bardem). In the midst of the Great Recession, the screenplay would have benefited from Deep Throat’s admonition to always “follow the money.”
Although Gilbert’s readers all know she set off with book contract in hand (having already authored several successful books by the time of her divorce), no one in the theatre will know this unless told later. But it’s critical information that changes everything: Elizabeth Gilbert is a professional “seeker,” not just, say, a rich heiress with wanderlust.
It would have been easy enough for Murphy & Salt to drop this critical piece of information into one of Roberts’ early scenes with “Delia Shiraz” (Viola Davis). After all, they’re meeting in Delia’s large Manhattan office, so they’re more than just friends. But who is Delia? Gilbert’s editor? Her agent? No clue.
Turning Gilbert from a highly accomplished careerist into a dilettante is a fatal error. For shame, Ryan Murphy! Given all the resources at your command, it appears you blew it because you just had no respect for your heroine… or her audience!
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