I am perhaps more skeptical of commercial romantic dramas than I am of rom-coms. If something like “Eat. Pray. Love” came on to the screens, in normal circumstances I would have run for the hills. But sometimes we have to put up and shut up. And so I did. On the way to the cinema I was wondering if Julia Roberts had actually been in any decent movies. She is, after all, best known for “Pretty Woman” and the only other major role that I can think of is “Erin Brockovich”. Aside from this, I cannot think of a single notable (even notable in a commercial sense) film that Roberts has starred in. Correct me if I’m wrong, please, because I want to be proven wrong! Well, that is, aside from her cameo role in Robert Altman’s “The Player”. To me, those three or so minutes were her best role. And she didn’t even say a line.
So there I was thinking that she was going to be a bit rubbish. And I wasn’t that wrong really. Her performance in this movie is average at best and she struggles to conjure up any real emotion, even in the scenes when she’s meant to be crying. On the other hand, people would argue that the film is less about Roberts and more about what happens.
So let’s get to it: Roberts is a travel journalist who finds herself in a loveless marriage with no children. She divorces her husband and begins a relationship with a younger man (played by James Franco, whose talents were frankly wasted) before realising that she’s been wasting her life skipping from one man to the next. So she decides to take up a year-long trip to three places she’s always dreamed of going: Italy, India and Bali. Don’t ask how she hadn’t been to these places already as a travel writer, because a.) it’s only a movie and b.) those same people from before would claim that you’d missed the point once again. To continue, Roberts has a meaningful relationship with her food in Italy, then tries the ancient practice of meditation in India, before moving on to Bali, where she meets handsome Brazilian Javier Bardem and falls in love. The End.
Don’t claim I’ve spoiled the film for you. You know she went into the arms of the man anyway. The movie is shot beautifully and the locations are incredibly picturesque. Whoever directed and photographed this movie deserves some praise because this is the main deciding factor on me liking this movie more than I probably should have. I’m a sucker for wonderful cinematography and, while slightly stylistically conventional (sweeping vistas, zoom ins, focus changes from plants to people), it’s got that in spades.
Where the rest of the movie is concerned, I have to say that I wasn’t impressed, both with the acting, the script and with the general storyline. I know this is based on a book and it really happened but at the same time I wanted my movie about a woman finding her place in the world through travelling to not end with her falling into the arms of a handsome stranger. My feminist side is telling me that this is just morally wrong. All the good “independent woman” work of the first two hours was wasted as soon as Bardem walked on screen. I know I’m not the only one who has a problem with this.
Aside from this, the movie was just generally too long. It was a mountain of cliches, piled high on top of each other that was quite frankly a load of nonsense. And it went on for two and a half hours. Two and a half hours people. No-one needs to endure that long for a conclusion that everyone can see coming from twenty miles away. Italy particularly infuriated me. Roberts really didn’t need to be there that long: all she did was eat pasta and laugh with her friends (about stuff that was completely irrelevant) and it lasted for the best part of 40-45 minutes. What a rip off.
Verdict: Go and see it if you’re a Roberts fan or if you like to look at scenes of rolling countryside and close-ups of food. Otherwise avoid it. You won’t be missing anything you hadn’t already seen in a trailer.