EAT PRAY LOVE, 2010

EAT PRAY LOVE 2010 MOVIEEAT PRAY LOVE, 2010
Movie Reviews

Directed by Ryan Murphy

Cast: Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem, Viola Davis, Billy Crudup, Richard Jenkins, Viola Davis, Ali Khan
Review by Joshua Starnes

SYNOPSIS:

Happily married Elizabeth Gilbert (Roberts) takes a right turn in her life by enduring a painful divorce and proceeding to take a round-the-world journey of self-enlightenment and fulfillment.

REVIEW:

Do you know what the most interesting thing in the world to you is? You. Do you know what the least interesting thing in the world to anyone else is? You.

That’s not entirely true because people have relationships and empathy, but I think we can safely call it 95% true. So how do you get around that problem in a story that is essentially about you? As an author or filmmaker you can either make your ‘you’ stand-in so likeable and/or universal that everyone else sees themselves in it and goes along for the ride out of shared experience. Or you can make your stand-in such a vehicle for ridiculous wish fulfillment that everyone else comes along to pretend the have the shared experience.

A lot of movies like “Eat Pray Love” like to pretend to themselves they’re the first kind of story, without realizing (or actively) ignoring the fact they are the second, resulting in something that is simultaneously preachy and shallow, which is about as aggravating as it sounds. Try imagining one of the ‘Real Housewives’ of wherever explaining to you what you need to do reach spiritual enlightenment. Well, maybe not that shallow but certainly that immature.

MOVIE POSTER

Liz (Julia Roberts) isn’t happy with life. She doesn’t know why, she just is. She married her goofball husband (Billy Crudup) too early to realize that wasn’t what she wanted and the affair she has with a young actor (James Franco) doesn’t make things any clearer. Her only solution is to check out of life: travel to several countries (all beginning with the all important letter I) so that she can spend some time focusing on herself and what it is she really wants.

The thing is what Liz really wants is to be 20 again, with the wonderful expanse of life ahead of her and none of the cynical realizations of maturity to keep her from enjoying it. If that sounds really, really hard to relate to, it is. Liz maybe the most unlikeable character Julia Roberts has ever had to play, not because co-writer/director Ryan Murphy (“Glee”) is trying to make her so (and eventually redeem her) but because everything the film does pushes her in that direction.

I suspect that’s because his eye is less on his characters than it is on the loving, beautiful travelogue he has put together of Italy and Indonesia and India. Especially Italy. Sure, it’s the part of the movie that’s supposed to be about giving in to physical pleasures as a real thing not to feel guilty about, but it also seems to be the only part of the movie anyone making it really understands because it’s the only part that doesn’t pretend to be more than it is. I swear to God, they spent longer lovingly lighting the spaghetti under Robert Richardson’s watchful eye than they did trying figure out why on Earth anyone would ever like Liz.

However as it moves into its spiritual journey, with Liz embracing her inner ashram in India and her attempt to balance the competing desires of her heart of India, “Eat Pray Love” reveals itself to be the con man it is. It knows people want to have their cake and eat it too, and it’s going to do its best to give it to them, while spinning just enough spiritual platitudes to make sure you’re not really paying attention to the smoke and mirrors.

After a year of discovering herself Liz literally runs into a dashing Brazilian ex-pat (Javier Bardem) in Bali with all the finesse of a Harlequin romance and has to wonder if it was all for naught and all she really needed was someone else to make her happy after all. It’s the sort of thing people rake “Sex and the City” over the coals for but at least they had the honesty to be up front about it.

There are some descent supporting performances scattered in “Eat Pray Love” from Richard Jenkin’s sloganeering Texas pilgrim to Viola Davis as Liz’s publisher and one and only model of sanity in the world. But they’re not enough to turn the tide that is all, all about Liz.

“Eat Pray Love” is the shallowest of shallow wish fulfillment, which wouldn’t be so obnoxious if it wasn’t trying to gussy itself up with the clothing of enlightenment. But maybe I’m the one who’s cynical. If I met the supermodel of my dreams on a beach in Bali, I’d probably get over any personal problems I had, too.

 

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1997 Movie Review: ABSOLUTE POWER, 1997 (dir. Clint Eastwood)

ABSOLUTE POWER MOVIEABSOLUTE POWER, 1997
Movie Reviews

Directed by Clint Eastwood

Cast: Clint Eastwood, Ed Harris Gene Hackman, Laura Linney, Scott Glenn, Dennis Haysbert, Judy Davis, Richard Jenkins
Review by Surinder Singh

SYNOPSIS:

Professional thief Luther Whitney (Clint Eastwood) finds himself the sole witness to a murder involving the US President Richmond (Gene Hackman) during a routine robbery. A dangerous game of cat and mouse begins. Whitney must stop the murder weapon and his own daughter Kate (Laura Linney) from falling into the hands of the corrupt President and his aids. How can a guilty thief bring the President of the United States to justice and still make a clean getaway?

REVIEW:

Absolute Power is a feast for movie lovers with its all-star cast (including Eastwood’s own daughter Alison Eastwood). Also, with it being a thriller directed by the capable hands of Clint Eastwood himself you really can’t lose! Absolute Power is indeed a brilliant thriller with solid performances all round (not that this is a surprise). The nineties marked Eastwood’s transition to senior roles where his age became a large part of his roles. In The Line Of Fire (1993) and Unforgiven (1992) showed us Clint Eastwood actually exploring his age as a subject/theme in his work.

As the older thief, Luther Whitney has to reflect on the life he has lead. His wife is dead and he’s trying to make amends with his estranged daughter Kate. Naturally the event of the murder will change his life forever. The murder scene is quite simply an exquisite piece of filmmaking; bringing together acting and writing to sinister effect. We watch Whitney observe through a one-way mirror a simple affair turn into a tragic killing. Eastwood crafts the scene with a voyeuristic suspense and intrigue allowing the action to unfold dramatically but also showing us the important details. You can imagine the scene being in a Hitchcock movie.

As President Allen Richmond, Gene Hackman takes a role going against his usual typecast. Rather than being the brash hard man on the front line, Hackman plays a scheming, snake-in-the-grass of a President who gets others do his dirty work! Richmond’s partner in crime is a thoroughly nasty piece of work: Chief of Staff Gloria Russell (Judy Davis). She’s the real personification of evil using her two Secret Service agents: Burton (Scott Glenn) and Collin (Dennis Haysbert) to carry out her deeds. The idea of a US President trying to cover up an affair was certainly a relevant topic given the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal in 1997.

Hot on the trail of both Whitney (and trying to get his head around a murder scene that makes no sense at all) Seth Frank (Ed Harris) is a good cop who gets close to Whitney’s daughter Kate during the investigation. In wonderful scene in the art gallery both Frank and Whitney cross swords and discuss the case at hand. Both Harris and Eastwood show what great actors they are here. Not a single line of the script becomes cryptic and they both make clear the underlying conversation about the investigation.

Another interesting element is the Secret Service agent Burton. His guilt bears down hard on him, unlike Collin who is more of a cold killing machine that only responds to orders from above. Burton represents the only person inside the President’s circle who seems to realize the moral issues at play. While everyone is blinded by their duty to the President, he is the one who stops and realizes they made a mistake that was not just. It’s fascinating that two men like Burton and Collin (so different in beliefs) can work side by side in government.

As fate would have it Whitney’s daughter Kate is of course a law prosecutor. This is quite an obvious move by the script to push moral questions onto Whitney who (being a thief) obviously an individual moral compass. Kate also provides a good motive for him to come out of hiding. In the scene in the outdoor cafÈ we see Whitney risk snipers to see his daughter who is now working with Frank to bring her father in. Eastwood does well to keep the action simple and not go over board.
The key to Whitney’s redemption is for him to allow the law to solve the murder and bring the real killers to justice. Whitney uses his slippery skills to incriminate the guilty people but not before he reverses his own sin (putting the swag he robbed back). The movie is about the importance of telling the truth sure, but the movie also makes the point that corruption blinds good people and so bad things happen.

Absolute Power is solid viewing and well worth a watch on a Saturday night in. Like much of Clint Eastwood’s directorial work in the 90s, it shows him building toward the quality of directing we now take for granted in his more recent work: Million Dollar Baby (2004) and Mystic River (2003).

Surinder Singh – Feb 2010

 

ABSOLUTE POWER, 1997

Happy Birthday: Richard Jenkins

richardjenkins.jpgHappy Birthday actor Richard Jenkins

Born: May 4, 1947 in DeKalb, Illinois, USA

Married to: Sharon R. Friedrick (23 August 1969 – present) (2 children)

Read reviews of the best of the actor:

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dir. Ryan Murphy
Stars
Julia Roberts
Javier Bardem

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starring
Stiller
Patricia Arquette
Tea Leoni

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2008
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Brad Pitt

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Foxx
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Kodi Smit-McPhee
Chloe Moretz

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Robert Stevenhagen
Voices by
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Hoffman

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1988
dir. Steven Kampmann
William Porter
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Mark Harmon
Jodie Foster

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The Visitor
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Peter Farrelly
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2012
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Stars:
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2012
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Stars:
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2013
dir. Roland Emmerich
Stars:
Channing Tatum
Jamie Foxx

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Stars:
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Christina Hendricks

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