Bali’s ‘Icon’ Movie Fried by the Critics

By Hector, The Bali Times diarist

Eat Pray Love, the Julia Roberts movie filmed partly in Bali last year and the screen adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book about finding herself in Italy, India and Bali, has come in for some strident criticism from American reviewers.

The movie was released in the US on August 13. Bali won’t see it on the big screen until this year’s BALINALE film festival in October.

“Twenty years ago, even 10 years ago, the role of Liz would have been played by Meryl Streep, who has the rare gift of elevating insubstantial material, a gift that Roberts lacks,” wrote Peter How-ell in Canada’s Toronto Star.

Lou Lumenick in the New York Post writes: “A year-long, around-the-world quest for self-fulfilment that basically goes nowhere, Eat Pray Love is a very shallow, very glossy 2?-hour travelogue starring a miscast Julia Roberts as a spoiled, self-centred divorcée who decides to get away from it all.”

Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune dismisses the movie, based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-seller as “a travelogue with a little spiritual questing on the side.”

And Claudia Puig writes in USA Today: “The whole journey feels like a rich girl gone slumming. And for those of us along for the ride, it’s a bit of a slog.”

But the most trenchant criticism came from Christian Science Monitor film critic Andy Klein, who wrote:

“Somewhere on its journey to the big screen, Eat Pray Love – the film adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling memoir Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia – lost not only its marquee-unfriendly subtitle, but even its two commas. It will compensate by inducing a much larger number of comas among its viewers.”

Klein notes that Gilbert financed her voyage of self-discovery with a hefty advance from her publisher, “thus guaranteeing that she had better learn some-thing knowing and wise, since ‘Writer scours world for meaning of life… Comes up empty-handed’ is not a pub-lisher’s dream pitch for display space at Barnes & Noble.”

And he puts a sting in the tail, writing:

“While I can imagine taking pleasure in ga-zing at Roberts’s navel, there are few things less rewarding than gazing at Roberts gazing at Roberts’s navel.

“Moving from bellybutton to Bali, the film finally allows Liz a carnal/romantic consummation, in the form of Felipe (Javier Bardem), a soulful Brazilian expat. They have their ups and downs, but end up literally sailing off into the sunset. No, that’s unfair: The boat has a motor.”

But it wasn’t all bad news.

Critic Chris Vognar in the Dallas Morning News remarks that as “a film critic with an X and Y chromosome, I got caught up in the modern sensibility of this rare female quest movie.”

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