While this blog has little to do with movie reviews, there are times when it is a bit fun take issue with such things…especially since the book and the movie are supposed to be spiritual in nature. This review is only based on the movie, so you don't need to tell me how much better the book is because I bet the book is abominable too. Did I spoil the review already?
The main character in this movie Liz Gilbert, (played by Julia Roberts), is a married woman who realizes how unhappy her marriage really is, and that her life needs to go in a different direction. The movie begins with Liz , in Bali, on an assignment (Liz is a writer). While there she meets a senile medicine man, who tells her she will get divorced, lose all her money, and eventually come back to Bali to study under his tutelage (and teach him English). This brief interaction becomes the sad, self-fulfilling prophecy on which the whole movie is hinged.
From there, the movie is a bit unclear as to why she feels so disconnected with her husband Stephen, (played by Billy Crudup). My guess is that it’s because, according to the movie, he likes to shop for appliances on the weekend; and that (in my opinion) he may have become addicted to fondant, and cream cheese frosting- in his pursuit to become a world famous pastry chef. Following a party one night, where she discovers that her husband doesn’t know how to hold a baby, and that she is basically the emotional equivalent of one, she decides, for the first time in her life, to pray to God. After her 20 second self-serving prayer, God must have (in her mind) told her to call it quits and leave her husband. For right after her benediction, she goes to bed and tells her sleepy husband she don’t want to be married anymore.
The next fifteen minutes of the movie consists of her trying to extricate herself from her marriage via her lawyer, and the legal system, while her husband desperately begs her to reconsider. During this time she has already shacked up with some third rate thespian named David, (played by James Franco) who seems to be really into Laundromats and guru worship. Finally, after her divorce goes through, she decides that she needs to dump David, because apparently she is starting to dress like him…plus David seems to enjoy folding her underwear a little too much. After throwing David onto the relational dung pile, atop her ex-husband, she has some sort of self-serving epiphany, and decides to take a year sabbatical away from her apparent hobby of castrating men. Her friends try to talk her out of it, but she cares for them about as much as she does the men in her life, and basically tells them to get bent.
The first stop on her journey is Italy, where she eats a lot of great food, drinks a lot of wine, and learns how to order food in the Italian language. After touring some of the great architecture/sites of Italy, she discovers that her pants are too tight, from all the good food. Liz and her friend (whose pants are too tight too) then go on a shopping spree to buy some larger pants. They then proceed to eat a large amount of pizza and drink a lot more wine. Her ravenous tour of Italy ends with, (you guessed it) more food; as she shares an American Thanksgiving dinner with a few friends who like to drink and eat too. Believe it or not…this was the enjoyable part of the movie!
The next stop in this sad adventure is Calcutta India, where Liz takes up residence in David’s guru’s ashram. Believe it or not, the guru is not there, nor does she (the guru) ever make an appearance, aside from a 5x10 picture of her that is propped up on a folding chair. Liz is informed that the guru is in New York, which is extremely ironic as well as laughable. Liz then meets Richard, (played by Richard Jenkins), who by the way, I thought was great in the Cohen brother movie “Burn After Reading”. Richard is a caustic jerk from Texas who keeps calling Liz “groceries” because Liz likes to eat large amounts of food- (are you seeing a pattern here?). Liz soon finds out that she sucks at meditation, and she’s getting really tired of Richard making fun of her eating, as well as her chanting skills. The next 20 minutes involve Liz scrubbing a floor, having a soda with Richard, and attending a 17 year old girls arranged marriage. The character of Richard is so poorly developed, that his “heart-felt” story of losing his job, family, and almost killing his son while on a drunken bender, is all but lost on the audience. Richard then tells Liz that she needs to forgive herself, for trashing her relationships, which is ironically a task he is incapable of doing himself. Richard then has to leave the ashram, because he has to go back home, where he will probably dole out some more useless advice, and destroy more people‘s lives. There is a tearful scene between Liz and Richard as he gets into the cab to leave…but for the life of me I cannot understand the reason for the tears, because in the movie, they never really became friends!
The Calcutta part of this film is very insulting because it fails to even address the religion, culture, or the poverty, that is prevalent in that region of the world. This was basically a privileged westerners pit stop in a sad attempt to find armchair enlightenment.
To complete the prophesied journey, she eventually returns to Bali. While there she reunites with the “wise” medicine man, who predictably does not remember her at all. Finally through her forced attrition, he says that he does recall their brief interaction one year prior. She then finds herself a nice pad, complete with a waterfall and meditation area- for her to practice the skills she learned in Calcutta. She spends the next 20 minutes of the movie meditating, taking in the sites, and meeting with the senile medicine man. While ridding her bike one day she gets run off the road by some Brazilian guy. This guy’s character is so predictable that you immediately know they will end up together. To make a long story short…Liz tries to destroy this guy too. But eventually they get together and ride off into the sunset on his boat. Oh I forgot…Liz did help some lady and her daughter by contacting her rich friends to donate money, so that the lady and her daughter could build a house, complete with a blue tile floor. My guess is they had to throw charity a bone here in order to make up for all the selfish-meat in the movie.
This is movie is a sad example of situation ethics girded with the belt of religious relativism. This movie even manages to insult eastern religions, as well as spiritual attainment; which is a tough act to pull off…Kind of like a feathered mullet. (or at least I’m told)
Watch at your own risk:->