Two critics from Florida break out of the gate with early reviews for Eat Pray Love. We’ve never featured either of these guys, and the only reason I’m doing so now is because they’re the first to jump the gun. Two moderate thumbs up, one thumb a bit more wobbly than the other. Both agree that work from Julia Roberts and Robert Richardson is a pleasure to watch.
(75) — Steve Persall, St Petersberg Times: Roberts makes it easy, summoning every ounce of acting talent sidelined by motherhood and projects beneath her for years. This isn’t a showy performance but one with subtle reactions to dramatic twists and genuine wonder at what her character discovers. Roberts still flashes that dazzling smile at precisely the right moments to endear but those moments are effectively chosen. No doubt it will be remembered in awards season.
Director Ryan Murphy (TV’s Glee) needs only to follow his star while cinematographer Robert Richardson locks up his seventh Oscar nomination by keeping the exotic locales in focus…
Eat Pray Love is femme filmmaking at its femmiest, yet fits nicely alongside other movies men don’t usually confess to liking and women love. Sometimes “the sweetness of doing nothing” except traveling the world, finding yourself and pigging out is a seductive idea. (B)
Somewhat less seduced is the critic from Orlando.
(63) — Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel: The generations of American women who have grown up with, identified with and love Julia Roberts may relish her star turn in Eat Pray Love, one woman‚Äôs journey in search of herself and other things.
Roberts, who, like Carrie Bradshaw, narrates Liz‚Äôs quest, makes most of the two hours and 15 minutes of eating, praying and loving pleasant enough. The Italian scenery dazzles, India impresses and Bali will make you swoon.
Eat Pray Love isn‚Äôt a bad movie ‚Äî just a spiritually dead one, wearing and wearying…
For a film about a woman whose motto is ‚ÄúI‚Äôm through with the guilt,‚Äù Roberts and Murphy & Co. have delivered a guilty pleasure. It‚Äôs great to see her in something this light again, looking much as she did ten years ago. Eat Pray Love allows Roberts‚Äô longtime fans to travel the world, and back in time with her. If only we all could eat until we pop and age in reverse and still have the glow of amber backlighting.
The trade critics feel seduced and abandoned:
Justin Chang, Variety: Adapting an episodic self-help tome is no easy task, and as scripted by Murphy and Jennifer Salt, “Eat Pray Love” is a bloated, nearly 2 1/2-hour film with a dearth of dramatic incident. Result reps an awkward compromise between the author’s personal vignettes and the commercial imperatives of a bigscreen romance, anchored by a heroine whose resemblance to Gilbert is crushed by Roberts’ larger-than-life personality.
Largely dumping Gilbert’s eloquent, freewheeling ruminations on the nature of God, Murphy simply cherry-picks the warmest, fuzziest moments from his source material, then flattens them with sentimental beats, easy laughs and a few outright falsifications (in the film’s rejiggered history of events, Liz and Felipe actually meet cute after a car accident). Even with the usual allowances for creative latitude, there’s something unusually phony about such fudging in a movie that’s ostensibly about the quest for inner truth.
Though Roberts is nearly a decade older than Gilbert was at the time (Bardem, by contrast, is a decade too young for the 52-year-old Felipe), the actress can still hold a closeup effortlessly, and she looks terrific in a succession of Third World-chic outfits designed by Michael Dennison. But aside from a few shots of her sitting with her legs crossed, “Eat Pray Love” shows little interest in Liz’s inner life or Roberts’ ability to explore it.
Like most cinematic travelogues, the film boasts no shortage of pleasing sights and sounds, with scenic locations nicely decked out by production designer Bill Groom and lensed by d.p. Robert Richardson; editor Bradley Bueckler gives the Italian food montages a deft, teasing flair.
Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter: The film never ventures, even once, into a situation that does not reek of comfy familiarity… Of course, the Elizabeth Gilbert memoir on which the movie is based also got criticized for its Western fetishization of Eastern thought and the overly self-conscious nature of this journey — reportedly paid for with a publisher’s advance for the book itself. None of that stopped her memoir from becoming a bestseller translated into 40 languages.
Working from a screenplay he wrote with Jennifer Salt, director Ryan Murphy, the creator of TV series “Nip/Tuck” and “Glee,” never loses track of the story’s bestseller attributes: foreign landscapes photographed at sunset or sunrise, food displayed with mouth-watering intensity, peripheral characters bursting with vitality, all men unnaturally gorgeous — or at least interesting — and female self-discovery as the unwavering central focus.
Each segment is thoroughly enjoyable in a touristic sort of way. And Roberts throws herself wholeheartedly into the role of the inner-truth seeker…
There is an undeniable attractiveness to all this, however doubtful the self-realization lessons may be. One can imagine whiling away pleasant hours watching this movie again as a late-night DVD or in-flight movie. The charms of each location and the vigor of the film’s supporting players cast a romantic glow. No, travel — and certainly self-realization — is never quite like this with Robert Richardson’s iridescent landscapes and loving portraits of colorful bystanders, the brilliant, exotic sets and costumes by Bill Groom and Michael Dennison and nicely unhurried pace of Bradley Buecker’s editing. But it should be.