Eat, Pray, Nip, Tuck

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Television shows, films, and stylish celebs have the power to influence the
consuming public. Mad Men, for example, brought back thin ties, white shirts and “modern fit two-button suits.”
So will the new film based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s
confessional Eat Pray Love make many yearn for a week- or year-long
stay in Bali? Scenes in the movie of that idyllic surrounding (since the
devastating bombing there), along with intense close-ups of star Julia Roberts devouring pasta (and roast turkey) in Rome are
the most appetizing moments in this cinematic turkey.

I don’t claim to be a movie reviewer (and I promise not to burden
you with more such reviews in the future), but having been lured into
the film through its book cover turned poster, designed by Helen Yentus, I believe this fits into my Print mandate.

Far be it from me to challenge A.O. Scott, whose New York Times film
reviews are always astute, engaging and right on. But after sitting
through an excruciatingly long string of self-indulgent cliches I
cannot fathom why he wrote:

Eat Pray Love, [is] a sumptuous and leisurely adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling memoir of post-divorce globe-trotting. Directed by Ryan Murphy,
who wrote the screenplay with Jennifer Salt, the film offers an
easygoing and generous blend of wish fulfillment, vicarious luxury, wry
humor and spiritual uplift, with a star, Julia Roberts, who elicits both envy and empathy.”

Roberts has always had an alluring smile, but her
self-centered quest to find dramatic meaning and ultimate bliss was
superficial at best, inexplicable at worst. First time film director
Ryan Murphy, known for his direction of Nip/Tuck and Glee,
which work nicely on the small 40″ TV screen, was either edited too
much or not enough. There was absolutely no attempt to reveal Ms.
Roberts’ motivation other than she felt disquieted by the Yuppie life
that millions in the industrial and developing worlds would die for.
What’s more, while Javier Bardem is so incredibly attractive that even I
was taken by his come hither smile, he was more striking in Woody
Allen’s Vicky Christina Barcelona, where there was some inherent ironic complexity to his character. Murphy should have retained a pinch of his role in No Country for Old Men
if only to provide a tad more tension than Roberts’ superficial “I love
him, I love him not” dilemma on which the end of the film hinges.

If Bardem just once threatened her with his high-powered air gun
when she summarily broke it off with him . . . well so much for
romantic comedy!

“As the movie meanders through beautiful locations,
grazing on scenery, flowers and food, it keeps circling back to the
essential tension between Liz’s longing for independence and her desire
to be loved,” adds Scott.

Perhaps if the screenplay of Gilbert’s one year trek to three
countries – Italy (eat), India (pray) and Indonesia (love) -
agressively explored this longing rather than serve up “bumper sticker
speeches (one of the best lines from the book and film), the movie
could have lived up to the poster, which for me is the best thing about
the entire enterprise.

Actually, the perfume tie-ins (below) look pretty good too, if
you cannot spend even a few days in Bali because, unlike Liz Gilbert
you can’t take time off work. According to Fresh, who makes it “The Eat fragrance is a sweet effervescent, the Pray is a woodsy spice, and the Love is a sunny floral.”

 


About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes a weekly column for The Atlantic online and is the "Visuals" Columnist for the New York Times Book Review. He is also the author of over 160 books on design and visual culture. And he is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. My sister and family work in Bali and my husband and I went to spend 2 weeks with them this past May. I have not read this book and I don’t intend on seeing the movie either, mainly because I heard way too many times how much the Balinese people hate it. They actually call it “that damn book” and say they can easily spot the women who are wandering around with a certain look and hopeful romanticism about them. Don’t get me wrong, Bali is a great place to visit (although the trip from the US is excruciating at 34 hours of travel!) but don’t go there just because of some stupid book/movie!

  2. My sister and family work in Bali and my husband and I went to spend 2 weeks with them this past May. I have not read this book and I don’t intend on seeing the movie either, mainly because I heard way too many times how much the Balinese people hate it. They actually call it “that damn book” and say they can easily spot the women who are wandering around with a certain look and hopeful romanticism about them. Don’t get me wrong, Bali is a great place to visit (although the trip from the US is excruciating at 34 hours of travel!) but don’t go there just because of some stupid book/movie!

  3. My sister and family work in Bali and my husband and I went to spend 2 weeks with them this past May. I have not read this book and I don’t intend on seeing the movie either, mainly because I heard way too many times how much the Balinese people hate it. They actually call it “that damn book” and say they can easily spot the women who are wandering around with a certain look and hopeful romanticism about them. Don’t get me wrong, Bali is a great place to visit (although the trip from the US is excruciating at 34 hours of travel!) but don’t go there just because of some stupid book/movie!