Eat Pray Love

Posted on: 8th October 2010  |

Director: Ryan Murphy
Starring: Julia Roberts, James Franco, Richard Jenkins, Viola Davis, Billy Crudup, Javier Bardem
UK Release date: 24 September 2010
Certificate: PG (133 mins)

Eat Pray Love relays the story of Liz Gilbert, played by Julia Roberts. Liz is in an unhappy marriage and decides that it’s time to ask for a divorce from her devoted husband. Following her divorce, she rushes into a relationship with a man at least fifteen years younger than her, but the passion runs out, boredom sets in, and Liz realises that she moved on too quickly and is even more unhappy now than she was in her marriage. In a further fit of hastiness, she then decides to take a year out, vowing to embark on a journey of self-discovery. Her journey leads her to eat in Italy, pray in India, and eventually to love in Bali.

The film boasts a fine cast and the big names don't disappoint. Nonetheless, I don't think it will be raking in the awards. Clearly, it has been very well planned; the scenes have been shot beautifully and the soundtrack chosen tastefully to evoke the desired emotions. The screenplay has been adapted skilfully from the book on which it is based, Eat, pray, love: one woman's search for everything by Elizabeth Gilbert (Bloomsbury; 2007). To the film’s credit, it offers a little more than the traditional romantic comedy; but to spell out my reasons for saying this would give away too much.

However, I do see a problem with this film. Despite the beautiful cinematography and neat editing – which, if I were reviewing this for an entirely secular audience, would count greatly in its favour and lead me to give it a four-star rating – this film needs to be faulted for the philosophy it promotes. Eat Pray Love runs the risk of rendering religious belief redundant. This is paradoxical given that a significant element of the film concerns Liz's spiritual pursuit, or, in her words, self-discovery.

Upon leaving Italy, she spends some time in an Ashram in India learning from the guru there. Whilst there, she meets Richard (Richard Jenkins), a fellow American, seemingly further along the road to self-enlightenment than she is. During her time at the Ashram, Liz is unable to pray and Richard, now enlightened, tries to explain to her why it is that she has this difficulty. It's what Richard says to her at the end of this conversation that startled me: 'Here's the deal, you're going to stay here until you forgive yourself, you hear me? Everything else will take care of itself.' This might seem sane advice from a friend, however, I couldn't help but think that this is an example of where society has gone horribly wrong. Can she really forgive herself? In our Christian tradition we understand forgiveness to be a gift from God; it is not simply that forgiving oneself leads to freedom, but rather that we are the daughters and sons of God and it is only by his grace that we are forgiven. To draw my point to a close: if we think that we can reach the heights of self-enlightenment purely by our own efforts then why do we need God?

In the end, it is an enjoyable film. Even though it is nearly two-and-a-half hours long, I never felt that it was going on too long. A word of advice: get some good, preferably Italian, food into your stomach before entering the cinema. Otherwise, like me, you will be craving a taste of the parmigiano, prosciutto and gelato, just hoping to snatch it from Julia Roberts’ fork.

Ricardo da Silva SJ

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Watch the Official EAT PRAY LOVE Trailer in HD


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