' ' Cinema Romantico: Eat, Pray, Love

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Eat, Pray, Love

I think the line that made me laugh the hardest in the whole two hours and twenty minutes (really?!) of a movie I was watching merely to maintain claim to having seen every Billy Crudup movie ever was a line that I'm reasonably certain wasn't supposed to be funny. It's near the end and Madam Julia is with Javier Bardem, The Frenchman In The Jaunty Hat, which is my own invention of the male version of what Nathan Rabin coined The Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and Madam Julia says: "I'm sick of people telling me that I need a man." Oh, how I laughed! "But Madam Julia," I wanted to shout, "the whole movie is about how you need a man!"

At the start she's married to Billy Crudup but he's a little self centered and they're not a good match, anyway, which she understands even when (in a fine bit of Crudup-esque acting) he makes a passionate plea at the divorce hearing for her to stay and why make this a movie about one of those marriages where people stay together even though they're miserable because, uh, I don't know? Their Catholic guilt? That's the American way?
So she gets out of that and almost instantly falls for James Franco who plays a character that is so utterly ridiculous it would have been ridiculous if anyone but James Franco had played it. He played it in a way that suggests the character itself is totally in tune to his own ridiculousness and revels in it. But she still apparently can't "find" herself and even though James Franco essentially waits on her hand and foot he's blocking any attempt she has at "finding" herself and so she has to break it off and go live in Italy, India and Bali for a year all on her own. Ok. Fine. I'm still going for along the ride. I get the benefits of being alone. Believe me, I do. Except......

She arrives in Italy and within 7.3 seconds has met a fellow American and the American introduces her to an Italian guy and he knows other Italian guys and within 2 minutes she has a whole loving Italian family. Wait, what happened to being alone to "find" herself? She's in Italy! Couldn't they have gone for a little Italian Neo Realism?!

Then she moves on to India to go to this ashram but the going gets tough and Madam Julia can't quite get going and I thought, "All right, maybe now she pushes herself all of her own accord and to get the job done and figure out-" Oops! Suddenly here's Richard Jenkins as a Texan who calls Madam Julia "groceries" (she eats a lot, see - ha! ha!) and talks exclusively "in bumper stickers" (Jenkins, though, has, by far, the film's best and most genuine moment in a monologue about the tragic event that brought him to India, and it's the only time the film truly made me sit up and take notice) who lends her crucial aid and offers fatherly advice and helps her on her way.

Have no fear! The Frenchman In The Jaunty Hat is here!
Then it's on to Bali where Madam Julia meets cute with Javier Bardem when he nearly runs her off the road and then he pursues, fairly relentlessly, and she finally gives in and, hey, even though she's so sick of everyone telling her she needs a man, now she has a man! And so she's "found" herself! So the movie can end! Yay!

The eeriest part, however, is earlier when she's in this Italian barbershop with that American friend of hers and these jovial Italian men are getting their hair cut and one of them says something to the effect of: "You entirely idiot Americans. You work five days a week and then spend the next two days in your pajamas watching TV." And then, of course, goes on to declare how we inevitably have no idea how to be in love with life, or something to that effect, and all I could think was, How would these two Italian guys feel if they knew the only reason I'm watching the movie they're in is to see an actor who's already been in his two most prominent scenes? Is this me being an idiot American? Do I have no idea how to be in love with life? Would these two Italian guys be watching a movie just to say they saw it? Or would they order pizza and proscuitto and campania and carbonara and truffles and wine and cheese, cheese, cheese - wait, do Italians actually eat this much?

I don't care. You know why? Because I actually know how to function on my own. Which even after two hours and twenty minutes (really?!) Madam Julia still had not figured out how to do.


Andrew K. said...

Julia's fine in this, but the actual film is a bit of head scratcher. Not even Julia can make this narcissistic character salvageable.

Nick Prigge said...

Julia was fine, which I sort of failed to mention in my blathering. It certainly wasn't her fault.