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Dolce Vita: Julia Roberts on the Italian leg of "Eat Pray Love" 

Eat, pray, love: in these three words lies the secret to a fulfilling, balanced life. Or at least according to this film it does, that is, if you are a metropolitan professional woman, have a fairly unlimited budget, no discernible critical faculty when it comes to things Eastern and a pretty unswerving sense that the universe begins and ends with you. 

There are also enough of you to make up a very decent audience for Eat Pray Love, which should account for its box-office success in the US (people have been going back to see it two, three times apparently). It is an adaptation of a hugely popular bestseller (on the New York Times list for more than 180 weeks) by one Elizabeth Gilbert, who, her marriage over and deciding there was something off-balance, something out of kilter in her life, took off for Italy, India and Bali in search of, er, well, something that would put it in kilter again. Lucky girl. She also financed the trip with the advance she got for the book she was eventually going to write about her epiphanies. Clever girl, too.

Gilbert, already a successful travel writer, probably bears little resemblance to Julia Roberts, who plays her here with her trademark brink-of-tears, damaged look — a shtick which nevertheless fails to hide the hard-edged, disdainful streak which comes out in most of her performances sooner or later. I haven't read the book, but I'm sure that the experiences Gilbert describes must surely have been a bit tougher than what Roberts goes through in director Ryan Murphy's film — or at least, for the benefit of the American reading public, I hope they were. Our heroine's path through the minefield of cultural nuances is virtually seamless. There is so much glowing goodwill in this movie, so much healing karma, that, well, darn it, it's about fit to explode. 

The "Eat" section — or should I say portion? — sees Julia learning about the sensuality of good cooking in Italy, where she is taught to loosen her uptight belt a little in the country which, to Europhile Americans, knows how to live like no other. Thus we see her surrounded by happy Italians eating di famiglia — a scenario which, given the country's catastrophically plunging birthrate, is surely becoming increasingly rare. But no matter — this is Sunday Style Supplement as cinema. "Pray" arrives, and we're off to dip into India. Again, lavishly photographed, dripping with hinterland, where our wanderer-after-meaning is a witness at a simply delightful arranged marriage (now there's one way to achieve balance), about which she seems to have no opinion whatsoever. 

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John
October 6th, 2010
2:10 AM
On the one hand you celebrate the consumerist culture created by capitalism which is all about ME and my gratifications. And which has turned the former seven deadly sins into the NOW seven cardinal virtues. And which depends on its continued "growth" for ever more inventive ways of exploiting these sins/virtues. And then you grizzle about films such as this. Why only this film? Most main-stream USA films are celebrations of the ME-first consumerist life-style. Hollywood is of course an integral part of the military-industrial-"entertainment" complex. The "culture" created in the image of TV now rules the entire world. Do you perhaps think that the advertisements appear in some kind of culture-free neutral space? Of course you probably much preferred the films/movies that really get down to serious business! Mountains of corpses and rivers of blood. Such as Mel Gibsons sado-masochistic splatter film The Passion, or the boys own fantasies portrayed in The Lord of the Rings and Avatar.

Alan2
October 2nd, 2010
5:10 AM
Spaghetti indeed, as food and as film. But unlike spaghetti Westerns, which have no pretensions but may still communicate a message of value (like promoting "independence and resilience"), this modern spaghetti communicates nothing at all. When will Hollywood resume its role? No tribe can live without its myths and dreams, and the purveyors of those myths and dreams, the storytellers and shaman, are, in the modern world, the film makers. These modern film makers, traitors to their inheritance, should hang their heads in shame, and will perhaps in later years, after losing the freedoms they care so little about, go from shooting to being shot.

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