Reviews

'Eat Pray Love': Listen to Ketut

Eat Pray Love presents Liz's road to enlightenment in ways that are too reverent, too episodic, and too self-absorbed.


Eat Pray Love

Director: Ryan Murphy
Cast: Julia Roberts, James Franco, Richard Jenkins, Viola Davis, Billy Crudup, Javier Bardem, Christine Hakim, Rushita Singh
Rated: PG-13
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Year: 2010
US date: 2010-08-13 (General release)
Website
Trailer

"You will lose all your money." On hearing this prediction, Liz (Julia Roberts) is understandably anxious. A magazine writer from New York, she's in Bali to interview a healer, Ketut (Hadi Subiyanto), and here he is reading her palm. When he adds that she'll return to Bali and he'll teach her "everything I know," she looks simultaneously put out and thrilled, certainly confused. Ketut concludes, "You need to look through your heart." So now you know, long before Liz catches on: she will be transformed by her encounter with this magical person of color.

It gets worse. Eat Pray Love presents Liz's road to enlightenment so it looks too reverent, too episodic, and too self-absorbed. Based on Elizabeth Gilbert 's best-seller, the movie puts Liz through the stages of the title (she eats in Italy, prays in India, and finds love in Bali), commemorating each with gorgeous shots of plates of pasta or ancient ruins. Traveling the world, Liz finds wisdom in assorted traditions and others (Italians, Scandinavians, Indians, Brazilians, even a Texan). She's searching for her "truth," she says, her self-understanding and her self-appreciation. But when she finds it, you're only glad that your own ordeal is over.

The quest begins (again) when Liz is back in the city with her vacuous, apparently ambitionless husband Stephen (Billy Crudup). Looking at him anew, following her experience with Ketut, Liz is increasingly disappointed. When he announces that eh wants to go back to school and, on top of that, Liz sees her best friend Delia (Viola Davis) happy with both her new baby and her man, well, she makes a "decision." She prays ("like, to God"), on her knees in her lovely living room in the middle of the night, desperate for a sign about what she must do. The film makes literal her sense of immobility when she hears her own voice advising her to go back to bed. Here, she makes-and-says her next decision, to divorce her husband.

And so she's off, in pursuit of something new, first embodied by the relatively young actor David (James Franco, who earns points for saying he's read just 20 pages of Gilbert's novel). Lusting after him while he recites her dialogue on a stage (dialogue with which he "takes liberties," and which sounds dreadful in every way, his and hers), Liz looks a little adorable, as if she's found some energy at least, if not "truth." But this effect wears thin in the few minutes, when the couple lapses into a trite montage of a romance: they eat, they laugh, they walk in the park. When she again comes to a crisis point (you never know exactly why she's so unable to locate her "self," or what that "self" may be, but boy, she cries about it a lot), poor David goes along, thinking she'll be back after she takes a year off.

Her journey to Italy and beyond has Liz learning new languages and modes of meditation and recipes. Her new acquaintances tend to pop up briefly, delivering bons mots and then sliding off screen. In Roma, Sofi (Tuva Novotny) helps her order Napoleons, Giovanni (Luca Argentero) teaches her Italian and "the sweetness of doing nothing." In India, somewhere near Delhi, fellow ashram guest Richard-from-Texas (Richard Jenkins) reveals his own tragedy ("it's not a pretty story, but it's pretty classic") and 15-year-old Tulsi (Rushita Singh) laments her arranged marriage -- both providing still more examples of just how easy Liz has everything. No matter: Liz remains intently focused on the big picture, which is determinedly about her and that self she's so fond of.

When at last she finds her way back to Ketut, he has actually forgotten her. She tries a few ways to remind him of who she is, why it's so important for her to be here and for him to appreciate the majesty of her self-indulgence. Ketut (along with another warmhearted healer, played by Christine Hakim) smiles and nods through a few more scenes, never quite disabusing Liz of the notion that the universe revolves around her. The movie gives her no reason to think otherwise, delivering on cue Felipe (Javier Bardem) a very nice Brazilian who inexplicably thinks Liz is as wonderful as she does.

"Leez, listen to Ketut," Ketut says. "Sometimes, losing balance for love is part of balance in life." Except in Eat Pray Love, where Liz loses no balance, for love or anything else. Throughout, she is a remarkably still center.

3

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.