At some point in Eat Pray Love, a story is told of a prayer uttered umpteen times to a God to win the lottery. The prayer is never answered and finally the God comes down to the man and pleads with him: “Can you please at least buy a lottery ticket?”
When the lead character, Liz Gilbert (Julia Roberts) embarks on a journey after a messy divorce for enlightenment and discovery, the narrative claims she has bough 3 lottery tickets as she has prepared a yearly trip to Italy, India and Indonesia. Based on the best seller of the same title by Elizabeth Gilbert, this memoir of Gilbert finding true love at the end is more like a fairy tale than a dramatic discovery of life. Liz lucks out on everything on her travels, from meeting men, making friends, learning and loving herself, and it is as is she has won the lottery without even having to purchase the lottery tickets. In other words, she hardly suffers at all during her year of travel. Though she travels to India, she is never bothered by mosquitoes, flies, the stench or even the overcrowding and menial chores she is forced to do. The result is a fake feel to the full movie so much so that one actually questions the fact whether all this is actually based on Gilbert’s life. In fact she also meets a man at the end.
At the start Gilbert leaves her husband (Billy Crudup) who still very much loves her after he announces that he wishes to study again. She meets up with an upcoming actor (James Franco) and leaves him because he never asked her to stay. She learns to eat in Rome and Naples, pray and meditate in India and falls in love with Felipe (Javier Bardem) in Bali. That is pretty much the simple tale. But the movie works despite its flaws if treated more as a fairy tale than a messaged drama on life.
Director Murphy (TV’s Glee) moves his film fast with lots of sights of the three I’s. One cannot help but watch Eat Pray Love famishly at the pizza and pasta Liz devours in the local Italian restaurants. As she learns English, Murphy’s film playfully runs through the familiarities of the Italian language. Even the bad language sounds deliciously exotic.
The Italian scenes are the most entertaining. As the film turns serious when the main character lands in India and later Bali, it starts running into trouble. The friend, Richard from Texas (Richard Jenkins) Gilbert befriends looks more like a dirty old man than a wise man and one would not be surprised if he would suddenly pounce on her sexually. But the greatest flaw is Gilbert’s falling in love with Felipe in India.
The movie would have ended better and more credibly if she had rejected him as she initially did. By taking him, she would have gone back to the rut she had been in before the year’s journey. She had only known him for too short a time later and sex (and arguably maybe the divorce they both went through) appears the only thing bringing the two together. When she finally changes her mind to go to him, the reason shown is the one sentence advice given to her by her spiritual guru: (You have to unbalance yourself to balance your life!” The other hard to believe is all her friends sending her cheques on her birthday in order to buy a house for her friend, only because she asked them to.
But fairy tales are fairy tales and everyone loves one with a happy ending. In Eat Pray Love, audiences will forgive all the flaws in the movie to accept the fact that Gilbert and Felipe will live happily ever after. Until perhaps they partake on their next spiritual journey!