16 of 22 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Eat, Pray, Love [DVD]  (DVD)Why do affluent Westeners look to the East in times of spiritual crisis? It's not as if Liz Gilbert, the author of the memoir Eat, Pray, Love (2006) on which this film is based, was disillusioned with the rampant commercialism of US culture - she received a $200,000 advance from her publishers to travel for a year and then write a book about it - or that she was determined to immerse herself in learning about other societies, other cultures, other religions. Here she is, played by Julia Roberts, sitting cross-legged in front of a toothless guru in Bali, asking for answers to her unsatisfactory love life. It's not the first fetishization of Eastern thought and culture or the first patronising representation of the poor brown folk as sages (as Maureen Callahan has pointed out). Nor the first film to pander to political correctness by installing a black best friend, a role last seen in Sex And The City 2 and played here by Viola Davis.
Wiping away imaginary tears, Roberts can only be shown as a force of good here. Her Bali medicine woman doesn't have a home to call her own? She whips out an $18,000 cheque from her family and friends. A young Indian girl is apprehensive about her arranged marriage? Julia has a dream in which she appears happy (doefully gazing up to her, Tulsi can now approach her fate with relaxed acceptance). Even Julia/Liz's sudden abandonment of her husband and marriage is not reflected upon; this is her "journey to inner freedom", this self-absorption, this endless circling of the self.
It's also hard to appreciate why the two women - Roberts and a Swedish friend, who mysteriously has a perfect American accent - chat about weight gain in Italy from all that carb-filled pasta: both look thin (Roberts was only prepared to put on 10 lbs for the movie - Robert De Niro she ain't!). Rather unbelievably, Julia/Liz's second husband Felipe, who in real life is a balding, grey-haired Brazilian 18 years her senior, is played by a Spanish bronzed Adonis, Javier Bardem. He brings with him the fairy princess notion to be found at the end of so many stories sold to women: there is a man waiting for you and he's just perfect. He can show emotion! He's caring! Hell, he even kisses his children on the lips! And an added bonus - he makes cute mix-tapes!
In the US the movie has been accompanied by a branding bonanza with tie-in beaded prayer necklaces selling for $150 each, promising to provide the wearer with "a beautiful reminder to live in love and gratitude". There are also three perfumes, the 'Eat' one of which promises to recreate "the smell of a Tuscan restaurant". Which will just infuriate those pesky Italians further: they've already been complaining about the sterotypical portrayal of their homeland as one populated by lazy, buttock-slapping machos without a concern for the wider world. This is, as the US Amz website describes it, a triumph of escapism over spirituality, over cultural exchange, over genuine curiosity. It's bumper sticker spirituality and multi-culturalism. And then it's back to the bounty of commercialism and materialism for Liz and Julia. (2 stars)