At first glance, Eat Pray Love was a bold experiment for the summer multiplex viewing schedule. I mean, a movie where Oscar-winner Julia Roberts carried the weight of a two-hour plus film that was neither entirely a drama, nor a romance. Who would want to watch that when (fill in the name of a sequel here) was showing? As it turns out a few people did, as the film made more than $80 million en route to an almost $200 million worldwide box office showing, not too shabby for a film that seems to perhaps speaks about gender differences more than most.
Ryan Murphy (who many know for his work in television creating the popular shows Nip/Tuck and Glee) adapted the Elizabeth Gilbert book with Jennifer Salt's assistance and directed the film in which Roberts plays Gilbert. As Liz, she gets the opportunity to both write professionally and travel abroad frequently to do it. While in Bali, she's told by a spiritual man that she will lose all of her money and get it back, and she'll return to Bali as well all within the next year. She finds herself not enjoying her marriage to Stephen (Billy Crudup, Watchmen) and leaves him and moves in with David (James Franco, Milk). She seems to know that the decision to move in with David was one made out of emotion and done for foolish reasons, so she decides to travel for a year. She first goes to Italy for several months, then to India to an ashram and meet David's guru (whom Liz has started to find spiritual comfort in), then to Bali and reunite with the man who foretold of her journey.
With very little knowledge of (or opinion about) the film before watching it, I was stunned to see the length of it; it is two hours and twenty minutes with credits. Normally I don't make it a point to complain about the runtime at the outset, but you do feel the time in various points throughout the feature. There's a lot of...nothing happening during many sequences. And it happens in between the eating. And praying. And loving. But then I realized midway through the movie that it's less about the romantic journey for Liz that is admittedly predictable and trite; it's more about the emotional and spiritual journey she takes to achieving some sort of peace. I don't dare call it "enlightenment" because I don't think it's that, but I do respect the path she goes down because it is independent of men and other surroundings.
Yet when I watched this film with my wife, I found myself prattling around with my phone and anything else I could find, while she was seemingly reaching for a new tissue every five minutes. I'll let her try to explain the reasons why the film seemed to strike a chord with her:
Sorry guys, I just don't think this is your kind of movie. Maybe that statement is unfair and too gender-biased, but you think about this and tell me if you don't agree: women tend to over think everything. This is why they (we), more than you, will likely see a part of us in Liz. We wonder if we're with the right guy, in the right career, whether we're thinking with our hearts or our heads and whether we should be thinking what we're thinking. It's exhausting. And somewhere in asking and trying to answer all those questions, we forget that at the end of the day, we only have to answer to one person: ourselves. But who the heck are we? Mother, wife, daughter, sister? Who?
The reason I liked this movie (or rather, the concept of the film) was because I and likely millions of women can identify with Liz. You know they say to comedians that the best jokes are the ones where the audience thinks, "Gosh, I know exactly what you mean!" I do understand Liz's plight. Women do. It wasn't so much that the story was great as that you admired her for her decision to begin such an adventure. In Eat Pray Love, Liz tests her humanity and hits the reset button. She empties everything in her mental drawer and starts over. Everything she's known, everything she's thought was important, is now seen from a new perspective. And that's a tempting thought.
Imagine that one day you and your spouse are fighting about something innocuous, like paint colors. Wouldn't you stop and ask: How did I get to be this person? Why do I care so much about things that matter so little and care so little about things that really matter? Where's my passion for life and the very short time I have it? But how do you find that passion you've lost? You set out on a journey, alone.
However, I don't think people aren't meant to stay alone. Through interaction with others is how you learn about yourself and how you find joy, and Liz does just that. From ages 5 to 95, we all make friends the same way - awkwardly at first, and you wonder whether you should say anything that may make them think you're too weird, but that's just it. People ARE weird. You are weird. Embrace it.
Oh, and my parting thought: the ending was kind of lame and typical for a romantic/chick flick. But in a way, it did show that Liz, nearing the end of her journey, almost fell into old habits and she was again asking too many questions. Should I, shouldn't I? Women of the world, stop thinking so much! Your prize for accomplishing this feat, at least according to Eat Pray Love, might be a handsome Spaniard (Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men).
So there you have it, much more coherent and even personal thoughts from the target audience of Eat Pray Love. It's certainly different than the usual chick flick because it's devoid of the usual plot contrivances that other romance films have. But for a women's film it's a different one, and for the guy who was grabbing the tissue box for his wife every few minutes, it's a change of pace from the usual flotsam and jetsam, even if it's only captivating to a point for those of us with the ability to grow facial hair.
The Blu-ray Disc:
Eat Pray Love is presented in 1.85:1 high-definition widescreen using the AVC codec, and the results are a true reproduction of directorial intent. Flesh tones look accurate without any red push and colors, particularly in the India and Indonesia locales are quite vivid without over saturation. Blacks tend to be a little on the weak side but overall the location shots look good and are done justice, even if the image couldn't really be considered reference quality.
Not a lot happens within the soundstage of Eat Pray Love for this DTS-HD Master Audio lossless 5.1 surround track to do anything. When called upon, it certainly does what's called upon. Subtle directional effects like when Liz is pondering her marriage in the quiet darkness of her house, thunder outside helps reinforce the ambience of the scene. And the low murmur of crowd noise in larger Italian scenes is replicated nicely, and the music (a mix of Eddie Vedder, Neil Young and other rockers) sounds clear as a bell. The dialogue is nicely balanced in the center channel and the overall film results in a quiet, easy listening experience.
Before diving into the extras, you've got your choice of a 140-minute theatrical or 146-minute Director's Cut for your viewing pleasure, though I doubt the extra 5 minutes and change adds much to the experience.
Things start on the bonus material side with "Ryan Murphy's Journey with Eat Pray Love" (4:18), as the director recounts how and when he found the book and why he liked it so much. He also talks about landing Roberts as the lead and working with her during the film, and what Gilbert's thoughts on said adaptation were. Following that are three segments that start with Gilbert's recollections oddly enough. "The Beginning of the Journey" (15:25) starts off in Italy, where the potential allure for the location is touched on by the cast and crew, and the local actors share their thoughts as to why Italy is so special, and the logistic in shooting the film are mentioned. "Praying in India" (14:41) and "Finding Balance" (11:48) follow much in the same vein for India and Indonesia, respectively, though they include more discussions on the Western actors who played opposite Roberts in both locations and what made them so good, along with the requisite thoughts on the culture of each location. A music video for the Eddie Vedder song "Better Days" is next (4:12), and as is the norm for Sony/Columbia titles, the MovieIQ subtitled track can be enabled/disabled at your convenience.
Eat Pray Love is as good a description of a chick flick that I can recall, though when it comes to the main character's journey men and women can relate to it, runtime aside. Technically, it's good, not great, and from a bonus material perspective, it's slightly barren. It's worth a rental if you guys need to earn some brownie points in the house.