It would be hard to imagine a starker choice for moviegoers this weekend: a night out with the aging action heroes in The Expendables
or a pleasant evening spent globetrotting with Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love
If you chose the latter, there's a good chance you're one of the
millions who read the Elizabeth Gilbert bestseller in paperback. And you would hope the film version—full of lush
cinematography and mouthwatering international cuisine—can live up to the second-chance fantasy's reputation with its
legions of fans. In parsing critical opinions, the Wire gave particular
notice to some essential reviewers: those, that is, who appear to have
read the book.
- It's Missing Gilbert's Internal Monologue points out
Joe Morgenstern at The Wall Street Journal. The book's "good observer
with a lively mind, has turned into the extravagantly external—glossy
cinematography by Robert Richardson—and cloyingly earnest quest of a
woman in deep distress." While "lesser" literary discoveries translate
well on screen (picture:"flakes of parmesan cheese fall like slo-mo snow
on a bed of spaghetti carbonara"), the film ultimately becomes a
"reliable formula of self-worth achieved through self-acceptance."
- Who Cares Why Liz Is Eating, Praying and Loving? writes
Dezhda Gaubert at E! Online. The changes to the book "ironically, water
down the plot instead of bring it into focus. There's no clear inciting
incident that launches Liz's nervous breakdown (indeed, in the movie
she doesn't even have one), thus the stakes are low —certainly
not enough to send a woman off on a yearlong trip to foreign lands."
Also the movie has a way of making Liz's problems "not seem so
terrible, and you're not entertained by her character."
- Captures the Heart of the Book but "never quite get[s] a handle on its soul: the deep, spiritual emptiness that sends Liz searching in the first place," concludes
Elizabeth Weitzman at The New York Daily News. One way that the film
manages to miss the soul is the casting of it's lead: "As it turns out,
though, a lesser star may have been a better choice. [Director Ryan]
Murphy appears so awed by Roberts that he encourages her to glide
through the film like the icon she is, literally shining a golden halo
of light around her wherever she goes."
- The Film Is Almost Too Dutiful to the bestseller, observes
Liza Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly, who echoes a complaint all
too familiar for book-to-movie adaptations: "the very nature of movies —
images come to life, words spoken out loud — is antithetical to
Gilbert's distinctive literary style, with words passed privately,
silently, between the writer and her reader."
- There Are Plenty of Discrepancies (Spoiler Alert) between the book and the movie, and Allyssa Lee at Moviefone outlines
them for readers/viewers to compare. First is the personification of
Gilbert's ex by actor Billy Crudup, who fleshes out the character as a
cantankerous mismatch, but in the book remains mostly an abstraction.
Other tweaks to the movie version include condensing her wide-ranging
group of friends, displaying more trust issues in her relationship to
Felipe (Javier Bardem) and a time-table shift for the emotional climax
of the film (when she joins Felipe on the boat).
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