When I was deciding which film to choose for my first ever Shitfest entry I considered searching Netflix for some hideous unknown B-Movie but in the end I decided to rewatch a film I already know is so awful it makes me feel physically sick. This is a film that so embodies the concept of “First World Problems” that it probably should have just have been named that. At least that would have been an honest title for this whiny, self-indulgent epitome of white lady bullshit… I bring you Eat, Pray, Love (2010) or as my friend, Dominic, called it in his wonderful review, Eat, Pray, Loathe.
Whatever you’re going to call it this pile of crap is about a 40ish writer called Liz (Julia Roberts) who spends her life traveling around luxurious resorts writing how wonderful they are. While in Bali she visits a toothless old medicine man called, Katut, who tells her she should come back to Bali one day and help him with his English, suggests her marriage isn’t going to last and then gives her a picture of some weird dude with four legs and an eye in the middle of his chest.
So Liz goes back to New York and decides to walk out on her husband (Billy Crudup) for no sensible reason. From the five minutes we actually spend with him you get the impression that he may be overly fond of changing rainbows but the catalyst seems to be his suggestion that he return to university. It seems like a perfectly sensible suggestion to me but Liz gets herself in such a snit that she starts praying and then does a runner. Maybe it’s because her best friend (Viola Davis) showed her a box of baby clothes she started keeping under her bed before she even had a baby… which would freak anyone out.
Of course ending her marriage out of pure vapid laziness doesn’t make Liz happy so she lies in the bath a lot and reads an Italian dictionary. I guess she hadn’t heard about 50 Shades of Grey. When the dictionary fails to do any good she decides to bang James Franco instead. His character is all spiritual and shit because he has a shrine in his flat where he prays to some random Indian lady. He introduces Liz to chanting but neither that nor James’ twenty-seven year old shlong make her happy. So she lies next to his bed and tells him “she doesn’t know how to be there”. Meanwhile wars are fought, people die of starvation, children get cancer and the ice caps continue to melt but never mind that because Liz is all about Liz. And she’s never even been single!
So she comes up with the genius idea that she’s going to pack it all in and go traveling for a year despite the fact that her seemingly only sensible friend tells her she is behaving like a student. (FYI this is when I started thinking “grow up you, eejit” and it never stopped).
Off to Rome Liz goes and and moves into a little old lady’s house. The little old lady has no hot water in her house… which is bizarre because it’s the 2000’s and it’s Rome but I guess the lack of hot water is supposed to highlight Liz’s terrible suffering and her willingness to compromise.
Despite the fact that Liz is in this beautiful city she’s still depressed because she’s lonely and she can’t speak Italian despite all the dictionary reading. Fortunately some Swedish woman takes pity on her in a coffee shop and they instantly become best friends (this happens to Liz surprisingly often considering that she’s a miserable bitch). Now Liz and Sofi (Tuva Novotny) spend their time eating food with a level of enthusiasm that borders on the pornographic. I honestly thought they had never seen pizza before they way they were shovelling it in. “OMG, pizza! We definitely don’t have that in America!”. And then they get fat and talk about giving up their terrible guilt about enjoying food. Although when I say fat I am talking about the concept of going from a size zero to a size two. Liz also makes friends with Sofi’s boyfriend and his friends and family and they spend a lot of time going on about they “joy of doing nothing”, which is a ridiculously entitled notion. You can only revel in doing nothing while someone else is shovelling your shit. Finally they all have an American dinner that Liz cooks and it’s so funny because one guy forgets to defrost the turkey. Sofi’s boyfriend’s mother spends the whole day rolling her eyes at Liz. The mother was one of only two characters I was able to identify with.
After a few months of coming to the staggering realisation that eating is enjoyable and Italian food is tasty, Liz heads to India to find James Franco’s guru and do some serious praying in her retreat… But praying is like so BORING and Liz can’t stop thinking about everything and she’s depressed AGAIN. Fortunately she makes best friends with a young Indian girl who has real problems because she is being forced into an arranged marriage. She also gets loads of advice from Richard (Richard Jenkins) who calls her “Groceries” because she now eats uncontrollably after her Italian adventure. He is full of tough love for Liz because he’s been through so much himself. This revelation comes in the form of an awful bait and switch where you start to believe that Richard might have run off to the retreat because he killed his child in a drunken accident but actually his child got out of his way in time and then his wife left him… which also sucks but it’s a terrible piece of emotional blackmail for the audience and feels hollow and dishonest. Eventually Liz starts to realise that she’s bogged down with terrible guilt because she ran out on her husband… um… she really didn’t need to go all the way to India for that little gem. And then she forgives herself. Good old, Liz.
For her final trick Liz returns to Bali to meet up with Katut, who initially doesn’t remember her. I feel like this film could have been turned around if Katut genuinely had no idea who she was and it turned out he gave the same weird picture every idiot American who came to see him. That shit would have been fricking hilarious but Katut, who is a weird little gremlin of a man eventually figures out who Liz is and promises to teach her everything he knows if she copies out his spells and recipes for reasons which are never disclosed. It turns out most of what Katut knows is about smiling with your liver. All of Katut’s affairs are managed by an angry little Balinese woman who clearly thinks Liz is a moron and who was the only other person I identified with in this film.
One day while Liz is riding around on her bicycle smiling with her spleen and taking advantage of the previous year’s bombings to rent an amazing villa on the cheap, Javier Bardem runs her off the road and bashes up her leg. This gives her the opportunity to make a new best friend in healer, Wayan (Christine Hakim) who is also divorced. They have loads in common because Liz abandoned her gentle, kind husband and their beautiful home for no apparent reason and Wayan’s husband used to beat her in front of their daughter and left her homeless.
Of course Liz ends up banging Javier Bardem but not before leaving some Aussie guy on the beach with his cock out. These things happen. She also decides to send her friends an email telling them not to buy her birthday presents but instead to send cheques to buy Wayan, a woman they have never even heard of, a home. Wow, what an awesome person Liz is, except that as per usual it’s all about making herself feel good.
The Bardem-banging continues and he falls under Liz’s bizarre spell, which leads him to suggest a life where she splits her time between her life in New York and his life in Bali so they can share the rest of their lives but that would ruin all the balance Liz has gained and she doesn’t need a man because she’s single now. But then she changes her mind and they disappear into the sunset.
THE END –
What did we learn?
Arranged marriage of 17 year old girl: Fine as long as good narrative device.
Men: bad… except when good
Liz: absent of any actual problems
140 minutes of your life: gone forever