Monday, August 16th, 2010

Flicked Off: In Which Two Ladies Do Yoga Then See 'Eat Pray Love'

FIRST, YOU SEE, YOU EATJami Attenberg: I have to preface this by saying I was 75% predisposed to like Eat, Pray, Love. I enjoyed the book version a great deal, I practice yoga and meditation and I love food porn in movies.

Jami: The other 25% was Julia Roberts.

Maura Johnston: Oh Julia.

Jami: She wearies me. She talks about her husband too much in interviews.

Maura: I like her, but I think 67% of my predisposition toward her is because of My Best Friend's Wedding.

Jami: She never ever has any girlfriends in any of her movies. She doesn't do well with women.

Jami: And yet she is America's sweetheart.

Maura: She had some lady attachés in this film!

Jami: Well, she had her editor, who has to like her.

Maura: And then there was the Manic Pixie Dream Swede she met in Italy, who took time out to thank Liz FIRST at the Italian Thanksgiving table!

Jami: That is true, because Liz changed her life forever because she told her it was OK to eat.

Jami: This movie is all about people giving permission to other people.

Jami: To be an asshole, to be selfish, to love.

Maura: And to admit that their life is pretty OK, which, well, I have to be honest — that "wow HOW GREAT IS MY LIFE" attitude was so much of what predisposed me against EPL from the outset, I think. Or, rather, the unexamined greatness of Elizabeth Gilbert's life. Yes, it had a fair amount of ennui, but it did not seem that bad in filmed form.

Maura: That book party in the opening scene!

Jami: I know that book parties like that exist, and that apartments like that exist, but I never actually see them. This is a how-the-other-half lives movie. Which is fine. But it feels not as relatable to me as the book did.

Maura: I have not read the book, I should point out here. Although I did see my sister reading it this weekend. She was enjoying it. It seems like a fairly speedy read.

Jami: I never recommend it to anyone because almost everyone I know has already read it. Most of my female friends started to hate Gilbert at some point in the book, but that was because they were jealous.

Jami: And they wanted to go on this trip. And not have to work for a year.

Maura: I mean… I'll be honest. I would like all those things. And Javier Bardem, too.

Jami: You have to go to Bali to get yourself a Bardem.

Jami: I think she makes some really lovely and important though not very complex ideas palatable to a mass audience, and because she is a good writer, and writes about gender roles well, it was a successful book.

Jami: Also, I stood next to Elizabeth Gilbert once at a party and she really does glow and seem special.

Jami: When you lose the prose stylings, you are stuck with James Franco being hot but not particularly substantial.

Maura: And kind of vaguely out of it. Playing the role of "James Franco," almost.

Maura: Some YouTube auteur should do a mashup of his "Eat Pray Love" scenes and his "General Hospital" bits.

Jami: I laughed inappropriately a lot at him.

Maura: Well, he was funny!

Next: just how funny was he?

45 Comments / Post A Comment

scrooge (#2,697)

Car-service driver? You mean Chauffeur, don't you? Only you're embarrassed to say it!

balsa_wood (#465)

"I have to preface this by saying I was 75% predisposed to like Eat, Pray, Love. I enjoyed the book version a great deal, I practice yoga and meditation and I love food porn in movies."

Okay, we need to break up.

Rod T (#33)

So this is not Precious II?

mrschem (#1,757)


I hated this book so much I refused to return it to the person who lent it to me and it's sitting gathering dust and I hope bacteria under my sofa. I want to stick pins in the smugness that is Elizabeth Gilbert and throw her down a well. Eeech to the power of X.

Leon (#6,596)

Is it really that bad, honestly? I am not against mainstream fun (I love Ace of Base and cheeseburgers and Jay-Z) but there is something I can't put my finger on which just makes me feel 'ick' whenever I see a girl I like reading this. It makes me feel awful and judgemental, but thats how I feel.

mrschem (#1,757)

I felt the same way about 'The Corrections.' I threw it in the trash.

Leon (#6,596)

I really loved The Corrections when I read it at age 19 and was still trying to become a pretentious book jerk. Now that I'm a full grown jerk (and both more elitist and less pretentious, somehow) I can't help but agree.

This thing called 'maturity' also applies to the changes in my tastes re: The Beats, The Doors, and Whippets from a whipped cream canister (I now have my own nitrous siphon for kitchen gadgets, so I can huff in style).

C_Webb (#855)

THANK YOU for mentioning the thing about how she has no girlfriends in her movies. Never trust anyone who has no friends of their own gender (baby geighs excepted).

Bittersweet (#765)

Laura San Giacomo in Pretty Woman? Or is she just a work colleague?

wb (#2,214)

Notice they were tiling the floor of the house BEFORE the damn thing was framed? Tiling is a finish step in building, done after there are, you know, walls and such.

Clare (#516)

Jami: I never recommend it to anyone because almost everyone I know has already read it. Most of my female friends started to hate Gilbert at some point in the book, but that was because they were jealous.

Wow. Just…wow.

(They admitted it! These are friends she's talking about here.)

Jasmine (#8)

Personally, I started to hate her because of how in love with herself she obviously was and how fucking self-centered. "I love Richard from Texas but only because all we do is talk about me!" etc., etc….

I am very disappointed Abe Sauer and Walt Fruttinger did not review this.

Abe Sauer (#148)

I was busy seeing the expendables.

So we should expect a review in the form of IMs tomorrow?

Or as I call it "Stallone's Lemon Party."

Abe Sauer (#148)

Well, I don't IM but… 20 years ago it would have made 12 million teen boys hard in the pants. Arnie and Sly, on screen at the same time? But now…

Much is made of Bruce Willis also showing up. But honestly, Bruce was never in the crew. Willis the action star was a hustling everyguy, a sly fox scurrying about, beating bad guys with smarts and smart-ass remarks. Like Mel Gibson, Willis was a romantic comedy actor who had stumbled into a gun. So I'll take him, but not willingly.

That the rest of this cast is called the greatest action stars of all time, and is missing Van Damme and Segal and Kurt Russell, is a crime that the should be charged with truth in advertising violations.

The Expendables blends two forms of action film, the 1970s and early 80s and the late 80s and early 90s. The first period was characterized by action film crews, a group of guys led by one standout figure (often Lee Marvin), such as Force Ten from Navarone, Death Hunt, Missing in Action, Delta Force, Avalanche Express. The 80s was the lone muscle-bound Cold War savior with limitless ammunition, mowing down prides of swarthy, anonymous foreigners for the right reasons, a perfect antidote to all of America's questionable foreign involvement.

I would posit that Stallone may have done more to promote foreign stereotypes than any single other American film personality. Rambo 2, 3, and 4 are a masters study in foreign stereotypes and complex conflicts boiled down to Hallmark card statements. Ditto Rocky 4. And this film doesn't drag his average down at all.

From a directing standpoint, I either admire Stallone's bravery or am shocked at his lack of judgement in shooting himself, Rourke, and Lundgren in some of the most limbering, tight shots of the entire film, showing off a grotesquerie of plastic surgery only bested by Gilliam's "Brazil."

Aside from a bit with the AA-12 auto shotgun and a fairly awesome scene with a strafing cargo plane, the film's action work is piss poor. The final gun shootout rivals the legendary Commando mow-down scene for preposterous body count.

One staple of a true muscled-up R-rated action star flick was that the bulls fucked. Van Damme ramming the female lead in the Hong Kong harbor junk dream sequence in Double Team. In The Specialist, Stallone naked writhed atop a de-robed Sharon Stone like a frozen side of beef slipping over a wet cut of tialpia. Segal had LeBrock in "Hard to Kill." Indeed, the best line in all of Showdown in Little Toyko was when Tia Carrere, sitting naked atop Dolph Lungren, exclaimed, "That time I could hear you coming." (This characteristic is maybe what makes Predator a nearly perfect action film from the era; no romance, no fucking, not even the slightest hint of feminine sexuality, let along T&A.) Maybe it's because they're all old men who all need t consult their physicians before engaging in sexual activity now, but in The Expendables, Stallone's direction seems more interested in gruesome bone and tissue damage than giving the audience a little T&A.

Stallone is a very interesting actor. Everyone today kind of blends his Rocky and Rambo careers together but that was far from the case. After his explosion in Rocky in 1976, he went years and years before really becoming a huge action star. In the years after Rocky, Stallone made a film about a Nazi prison camp (Victory), an early 20th century slums film (Paradise Alley) and "FIST" a film about the Teamsters union. In the meantime, he also made Rocky 2 and 3 before he ever made "First Blood." But then he got sucked into being "The Body" and the next few years were Rambo, Lock Up, Cliffhanger, Demolition Man, etc etc.

And with another Rambo maybe in the works and Conan already shooting, I still have to wonder when some action star is going to make the film that I and other fans have discussed over and over again. The action film where the hero is no longer capable and has to face his mortality. That's not only a great action film, it's a great film.

Yowza! Helluva commentary, Abe! Not that I ever planned on seeing this in the theater, but I think I'm gonna have a lot of fun reminiscing about this review on a quiet Sunday afternoon about a year from now when I'm barely paying attention to it on HBO.

mrschem (#1,757)

Whatever, Abe. My week is ruined.

mrschem (#1,757)


@Abe: I still have to wonder when some action star is going to make the … action film where the hero is no longer capable and has to face his mortality.

I think you're thinking of "JCVD". Maybe.

Also, damn I suspected The Expendables was going to be a little bit shitty. I'm still going to see it, but now I'm going to borrow a friend's 10-year-old son to see it with me and provide the proper perspective. (NB: Predator is his favorite movie ever.)

On the third hand, I'm pretty excited about Red (Bruce Willis! John Malkovich! Morgan Freeman! Helen Mirren with a sniper rifle!) no matter how crappy it turns out to be.

Abe Sauer (#148)

@Gef: Well, JCVD wasn't really a sequel or a straight action film. It was trying to be more of a Charlie Kaufman film (and it half succeeded). Rocky 6 was close. But I still think it could be better with Rambo or Conan.

RED looks great. It's the new action film paradigm. A graphic novel pedigree. Actors (beside Willis) not known for "action." Biting, almost self-aware humor.

That was great, Abe.

mickeyitaliano (#2,202)

Sometimes,you are jonesing to read and the only book available is something you may scoff at. I read this book (gun to my head? no). I just hated this lady. I hated her because I could spend a nickle in Red Hook and get the same loving with out blowing like 35 grand. We can not all be as privileged as this mattress hound. You know what I would do with 35K and a year off? I would write the best book.

egad (#1,355)

Thanks Abe…
I saw this last night, and it made me so angry. It seemed so naive and grotesque. It infuriated me so greatly that I have had nothing intelligent to say on the film. Your critique helps.

It must be a damn lot of nostalgia getting people into this film and rating it well.

iantenna (#5,160)

ugh. sorry, i saw the video of her TED conference speech and that was enough of her for me, ever. a million "likes" and "you knows" combining to make the most self-absorbed statement about "art" i've ever seen.

Flashman (#418)

Who gave a TED speech? Maura? Julia Roberts?

iantenna (#5,160)

uh, no. elizabeth gilbert. sorry that wasn't clear. maura is awesome, and i'll always have a soft spot for julia because 12 year old me wanted to marry her and make babies. elizabeth gilbert, however, can eat shit.

keanesian (#1,116)

I've only just gotten it through my head that Elizabeth Gilbert and Melissa Gilbert are not the same person, or related. But I'm still sad that Melissa Gilbert already has an autobiography. And it is not called Eat, Prairie, Love.

NinetyNine (#98)

Ah, but Internet tells me that Melissa Sue Anderson's is titled The Way I See It. That's pretty awesome. Also: she wasn't as hot as I remember her. That's the 70s for you (well, me).

Flashman (#418)

I always have to mentally unmuddle them too.
And I also think they're also Carrie Fisher.

JulieKlausner (#1,143)

Love Love Love this.


Eat Eat Eat

My wife dragged me to this movie yesterday, and I really enjoyed this post a lot! You two hit on just about every issue I had with this film … although I think you're both WAY to kind about it.

But one big issue I had with it that you didn't touch on concerned the ending. (Spoiler alert!) Prince Charming says "live happily ever after with me" and Julia (Liz) says "no" because … because …. well, there didn't seem to be any good reason she said no, other than to have her dramatically change her mind in the film's final minute and rush to her Prince Charming and say "wait! I changed my mind! I want to live happily ever after with you after all!" And she does.

So the final impression I'm left with is that she finally found happiness because she ran away with her Prince Charming – just like he told her to do. Which doesn't seem like a very feminist message to me – and I know that probably wasn't the book's message, nor the film's intended message either. But that's the way the film left me feeling anyway — this is a chick flick, so all the women in the audience need the heroine to find Prince Charming and live happily ever after with him, because really that's all women want anyway as far as Hollywood's concerned, right?

Also, lot's of "boy trouble" stuff mixed in with all the spirituality and such. Like, I gotta obsess over leaving my husband, and then obsess over my new bimbo boyfriend (who is so incredibly shallow as played by James Franco that it's impossible to understand why she wastes any time at all obsessing over anything to do with him). So then she dumps him and obsesses over that so in Italy it's like "No boys! Nuh-uh!" And not in India, either! And even in Bali, handsome naked boy wants to swim with her but she's all like "no your penis is pretty but I won't touch it because I'm all about spiritual awakening right now and I gotta get my head right first!" Except she meets another guy, and then it's all "This guy!" This Javier Bardem guy – but a good Javier Bardem — and not crazy or psychotic like in No Country for Old Men but instead like really sweet! And sexy! And he loves me! This guy!

So there was a lot of "this guy that guy not this guy but yes now that guy" in the movie and, as I mentioned, the final scene was all about getting her head straight so she could FIND THE RIGHT GUY.

Now if this were a movie about a man trying to struggle with a crisis of the soul, I don't think there would be so much of the lovey "I just need to get away from girls and then put my head in the right place so I can find the right girl and this girl will help me live happily ever after" stuff. You know?

No, there probably would be really hot chicks who show the man how to REALLY live and prostitutes with hearts of gold and whatever. Also, why would Bardem use the cattle-killer thingy on her? I mean, I would have probably already seen this movie if he did, but??? AND what good relationhip is about finding just any old person instead of finding the right person? By that I mean that the right person can change your mind about a lot of things. AND James Franco is scruffy hot. Sometimes thats enough.

carpetblogger (#306)

Wanted to hate book. Refused to read it. Knew would hate it. Got divorced. Went to Bali. Read book. Loved book. Can't wait to see movie. Not ashamed at all to admit this.

City_Dater (#2,500)

Elizabeth Gilbert could have stayed home and read Jane Austen to figure out that "to choose a man is to choose a life," which is really all she apparently learned from her long working vacation, and if she had done that there would be one less Julia Roberts movie in the world.

mickeyitaliano (#2,202)


That's it! The whole movie was like a two-hour-plus Cathy cartoon!

paco (#2,190)

It was bad faith on the part of the movie to leave out Gilbert pitching her spiritual voyage as a great opportunity for a book deal. How would viewers have felt if we had had a scene where GIlbert pitches her trip not as one of self-discovery, but as one that will sell because it'll be so compelling to vaguely dissatisfied rich people with no real problems in their lives? "It'll be great! It'll be a classic trade-in loser guy for Prince Charming story with some food porn, some vapid spiritual cliches, glossed with a patina of unearned and unjustified privileged gender indignation. Why shouldn't we eat that pizza, sisters!?"

Also, Gilbert's spiritual tourism in India seemed just stupid. What does she know about the ashram, the guru, etc.? Did she have any faith, any agnostic struggles, etc., before? Are we supposed to find her decision to swoop into some random ashram that she apparently knows nothing about for a high-concept version of a colonic cleanse admirable? The whole India brought to mind those rich people who go to third-world countries to offer manual labor for Habitat for Humanity or whatever; those places need financial help, expert assistance, etc., not bankers and consultants from the first world swooping in to do a few days of manual labor placing some bricks and taking self-congratulatory pictures of each other that they immediately post on Facebook with their iPhones.

paco (#2,190)

Nit: The whole India *bit* brought to mind ….

Gene (#1,580)

That's not what "giving up the ghost" means.

john smith (#245,014)

I never recommend it to anyone because almost everyone I know has already read it. Most of my female friends started to hate Gilbert at some point in the book

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