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Eat Pray Love Early Review: A Shallow Guilty Pleasure

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood August 11, 2010 at 7:23AM

Ryan Murphy's film adaptation of Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestseller about the divorced New Yorker's lone odyssey to Italy, India and Bali in search of meaning in her life, delivers an escapist Julia Roberts romance and exotic travelogue. But its pleasures are guilty and skin-deep.
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Thompson on Hollywood

Ryan Murphy's film adaptation of Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestseller about the divorced New Yorker's lone odyssey to Italy, India and Bali in search of meaning in her life, delivers an escapist Julia Roberts romance and exotic travelogue. But its pleasures are guilty and skin-deep.

Moviegoers who like Roberts--who ably carries this movie like the movie star she is--will flock to this glossy melodrama about an unhappy woman who wants to define herself by more than her profession--writer--or her relationship with a man.

The men in Gilbert's life are well-played by Billy Crudup as the handsome husband she abruptly divorces, James Franco as the handsome actor she jumps into bed with soon thereafter, and Javier Bardem as the handsome Brazilian fellow divorcee she finds in Bali. Watching the incandescent Roberts in full flirty sexy mode is one of the film's delights, along with a lively soundtrack ranging from Eddie Vedder to pounding disco. Older man Richard Jenkins, while not a love interest, serves as Gilbert's demanding friend and mentor during her soul-racking sojourn at an ashram in India.

Thompson on Hollywood

Arguably, Roberts co-stars with cinematographer Robert Richardson, who brings out the best of her jaunts through Rome and Naples, where the food is sensually tantalizing, to her more spiritual quests in New Delhi and the stunning seaside landscapes of Bali. Roberts looks gorgeous throughout this movie, which while never dull, offers fairly superficial answers to the question of what women want. Daily meditation and a balanced life are the main additions to Gilbert's plate.

In fact, in this Hollywood fantasy, a woman writes whatever she likes for plenty of money, looks fit, fashionable and fabulous no matter how much she eats and drinks, and can have any hunky man she desires. Maybe Murphy knows exactly what he is doing. During a summer starved of flicks for women, even if critics' knives are sharp, Eat Pray Love will be a huge hit.

Here's Variety and Rotten Tomatoes.

And the trailer:

This article is related to: Box Office, Genres, Headliners, Studios, Reviews, Summer Movies, Summer, Romance, Javier Bardem, Julia Roberts, Sony/Screen Gems/Sony Pictures Classics


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.