Eat Pray Love (Blu-ray)
Directed by Ryan Murphy
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 140/146 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, French
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 34.95
Release Date: November 23, 2010
Review Date: November 15, 2010
One would think that combining a best selling memoir with one of the world’s top award-winning movie stars would result in a big fat hit, but that’s not at all what happened with Ryan Murphy’s Eat Pray Love. Received mostly with indifference, the film simply wasn’t the runaway box-office hit most expected, and it’s easy to see why: the film seems rather aimless and uninvolving despite a prize-winning director, a splendid cast, and three picturesque locales that set the scenes in the heroine’s quest to find herself. There are some effective scenes, especially in the film’s first of three acts, but the movie ultimately fails to grab us and make us care about the protagonist’s efforts to arrive at a place of calm and focus in her life. From where we sit, she seems to have it all when the movie starts, and her fabled quest (financed by a book deal about her travel experiences which takes some of the valiant innocence from the project) ultimately seems like much ado about nothing.
Disillusioned with her eight-year marriage to youthful sweetheart Stephen (Billy Crudup), writer Liz Gilbert (Julia Roberts) rebounds into an unsatisfying affair with an actor (James Franco) and then decides she needs a complete change in her life whereby she plans a year-long three country sojourn for herself in which she will eat (Italy), pray (India), and love (Bali). Along the way she makes a new family for herself: charming linguist Giovanni (Luca Argentero), good-hearted Sofi (Tuva Novotny), tough-minded but troubled Richard (Richard Jenkins), and the tentative Felipe (Javier Bardem) among others, and learns to love herself, appreciate what she has, find inner peace, and proceed with the job and the joy of living.
The problem with adapting a book which deals with an introspective search for self mainly rests with the lack of a truly dramatic hook for the audience, and co-writers Ryan Murphy and Jennifer Salt haven’t managed to ferret one out of Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2006 opus. The film stubbornly refuses to come consistently to life, and once the food phase of the journey is completed (the most interesting and appetizing aspect of the movie – its Italian scenes set in Rome and Naples with tantalizing edibles and appealing characters whom we don’t really get a chance to know well enough), it’s all downhill from there. The India sequence with all of its focus on New Age meditation couldn’t be less interesting (though Richard Jenkins is provided one lovely monologue on a rooftop which is the best acting in the picture), and while the Bali scenes are beautiful to look at, the predictable pairing of the two Oscar-winning movie stars isn’t as electrifying as one would hope with a late movie flame-out for the couple that seems especially contrived and irritating. In fact, Javier Bardem’s most impressive moment in the Bali sequences doesn’t involve Julia Roberts at all but his close relationship with his son and their tearful parting which contains more joyous and tender emotion than all of his scenes with Roberts combined. Director Murphy does manage to capture some of the flavor of Italy and India (a wedding ceremony which is not in the original book) with some interesting visuals, but the plodding pace (the movie did not need to run 146 minutes to tell this story) and some ill-advised flashbacks for Liz (which are supposed to contrast her past and present lives) eventually defeat him.
Julia Roberts should have been ideal casting for the part but her usual ebullience is either missing or artificially forced in most of her scenes, and the script’s lack of motivation for her character’s unhappiness seems to thwart her best efforts to breathe life into this unhappy lady. Billy Crudup and James Franco both display the kind of sparkle that Roberts’ character is obviously attracted to, but their screen time is limited, and they get few opportunities to shine. Javier Bardem’s role is likewise underwritten, but he does manage to bring some suavity and sex appeal to the table to help viewers understand his appeal for the protagonist. Viola Davis has a good couple of scenes early in the movie as Liz’s confidante and conscience.
The film has been framed at its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. The film is blemish free being such a new release, but the transfer doesn’t display the sharpness or depth that most new high definition releases feature. Contrast seems irregularly applied to limit the image’s dimensionality, and color is solid but unspectacular. Flesh tones are convincingly realistic, but detail is only above average without being exemplary. The film has been divided into 16 chapters for both versions of the movie offered on the disc.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix doesn’t feature an abundance of surround sounds with the Dario Marianelli music score being the primary occupants of the fronts and rears. There are occasional ambient sounds panning through the soundstage (boats or cars moving across the frame), but these are infrequent. Dialogue is well recorded and resides securely in the center channel.
The disc offers both the original theatrical release and the director’s extended cut of the film. The director’s cut is a little less than six minutes longer than the theatrical cut with no additional chapters. For the purposes of this review, I watched the director’s cut of the movie.
All of the bonus features are presented in 1080p.
“Ryan Murphy’s Journey with Eat Pray Love” features the co-writer and director of the movie describing why the book had such an impact on him and what his aims were for making the movie. This runs 4 ¼ minutes.
“Eat Pray Love: The Beginning of the Journey” is the first of three featurettes featuring many of the cast and crew of each of the four locales of the movie. This first one involves the players from the New York and Italy locations including producer Dede Gardner, author Elizabeth Gilbert, and stars Julia Roberts, Viola Davis, James Franco, co-writer Jennifer Salt along with the film’s executive producer, costume designer, and production designer all discussing the first two sections of the movie. It runs 15 ½ minutes.
“Praying in India” features co-star Richard Jenkins along with the other members of the production team mentioned above who accompanied the crew to India (specifically New Delhi) for the filming of Gilbert’s second stop on her journey. This runs 14 ¾ minutes.
“Finding Balance” contains participants in the final leg of the journey including Javier Bardem commenting on the filming in Indonesia. This runs 11 ¾ minutes.
“Better Days” music video runs 4 ¼ minutes and features clips from the movie.
The disc is BD-Live compatible, but the only Eat Pray Love content on the network was the trailer for the movie.
The disc offers 1080p trailers for Salt, The Other Guys, Mother and Child, Easy A, Welcome to the Rileys, Grown Ups, and Tamara Drewe.
3/5 (not an average)
Fans of the book and of the star of the film may both be a trifle disappointed with the reasonably pleasant but somewhat dispiriting film version of Eat Pray Love which is now available on high definition home video. A solid but unremarkable audio and video package along with some routine bonus extras likely suggests a rental for this title.